Radical cleric wins payout for unlawful British detention

19th February 2009, Comments 0 comments

Qatada is also battling against deportation from Britain to his home country Jordan, saying he risks being tortured there.

Strasbourg – The European Court of Human Rights awarded 2,800 euros (3,500 dollars) in compensation to radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada on Thursday for his "unlawful detention" in Britain.

But the figure was less than Qatada, once labelled Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, had sought, the British government said.

Qatada is battling against deportation from Britain to his home country Jordan, saying he risks being tortured there. He suffered a blow this week when Britain's top court ruled against him.

The European court -- which will also hear an appeal by Qatada against the latest British ruling -- noted that the level compensation was "substantially lower than those which it had made in past cases of unlawful detention."

It said this reflected the fact that his detention "was devised in the face of a public emergency" and weighed protecting the public against a duty not to return people to countries where they faced a real risk of ill treatment.

The ruling came a day after Britain's highest court ruled that he could be deported to Jordan, where he has been sentenced in his absence to life imprisonment for terrorist offences, despite his fears of being tortured there.

In London, British Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said she was "very disappointed" with the compensation, even though it was not as much as Qatada had sought. "This judgment is based on historic legislation that we repealed nearly four years ago."

However, she did see significance in the low amount of money Qatada was rewarded: "Whilst I am very disappointed with any award, I recognise the Court has made substantially lower awards than these men sought in view of the fact these measures were devised in the face of a public emergency."

The European court also awarded damages of up to 3,900 euros to 10 others who, like Qatada, were suspected of being part of the Al Qaeda network and were taken into custody in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on the United States.

The British government said Wednesday that it would move immediately to deport Qatada, following the ruling that he could be expelled as a result of the Home Office winning its appeal against an earlier court decision.

But Qatada's lawyer announced that she would lodge an appeal with the Strasbourg-based European human rights court, a process that will further delay his deportation.

Born Omar Mahmud Mohammed Otman in Bethlehem, Qatada arrived in Britain in 1993 on a forged United Arab Emirates passport and claimed asylum, gaining refugee status in 1994.

He was arrested in October 2002 and spent three years in the high-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London.

At the end of the prison term he was released, although made subject to a control order -- a loose form of house arrest. He returned to jail in August 2005 as part of a crackdown against Islamist extremism after London bombings.

An imposing-looking figure standing more than six feet (more than 1.80 metres) tall and weighing over 280 pounds (127 kilogrammes), Qatada has links to British shoe bomber Richard Reid and Zacarias Moussaoui. Moussaoui is the only person charged and convicted in connection with the 9/11 attacks.

Both men sought religious advice from the London-based cleric.

Police in Belgium, France, Germany, Italy and the United States have also reportedly probed his alleged role as a key figure in Al Qaeda.

Therese Jauffret/AFP/Expatica

0 Comments To This Article