01:21 - Source: CNN
British dilemma over Abu Qatada release

Story highlights

James Brokenshire met with Jordanian officials

Abu Qatada was convicted in absentia in Jordan

The man has denied allegations against him

A Jordanian official says he'll get a fair trial

London CNN —  

A UK government official held “useful discussions” with authorities in Jordan over efforts to deport a freed radical from Britain to the Arab nation, the Home Office secretary said Friday.

The man is Abu Qatada, described by authorities as an inspiration to a September 11 hijacker and other terrorists.

Abu Qatada was released from a high security prison on bail Monday, the British Ministry of Justice said. He was already convicted in absentia in Jordan of involvement in terrorist conspiracies after seeking asylum in Britain.

While Britain views Qatada as a national security threat, it has been barred from deporting him to Jordan under European law because evidence gained from torture could be used against him.

Home Office minister James Brokenshire sat down with Jordanian officials this week and the talks between the countries will continue, Home Office Secretary Theresa May said Friday.

“The UK and Jordan remain committed to ensuring that Abu Qatada must face justice and are pursuing all options with regard to his deportation, and it is my intention to travel back to continue those negotiations shortly,” May said.

Aymen Odeh, the Jordanian legislative affairs minister, told CNN this week that Jordan wanted Abu Qatada back on its soil so he could be tried in person on terrorism charges there – and that he would get a fair trial.

He had been jailed in Britain for six years while the government worked to deport him to Jordan, where he holds citizenship.

“Everyone is united in wanting this man deported,” a Home Office spokeswoman said Tuesday. “This government will exhaust all avenues open to get Qatada on a plane.”

“As we do so, we will continue to negotiate with the Jordanians to see what assurances we can be given about the evidence used against Qatada in their courts.”

Odeh said there was no obstacle to Abu Qatada returning to Jordan, and that his trial there would be fair, open to the public and would not rely on any evidence resulting from “harmful acts.”

“When he comes, will be arrested, and the current charges that were made in absentia will be canceled by law, and will start the trial again,” Odeh said.

“However, there will be no new investigations in either of the cases. He will have a fair trial, in which he can submit any evidence to defend himself with, in the two cases.”

Abu Qatada, who remains under restrictive bail conditions, has denied the allegations against him.

Also known as Omar Othman, Abu Qatada arrived in the United Kingdom in 1993 and applied for asylum on the grounds that he had been tortured by Jordanian authorities. He came to the UK on a forged United Arab Emirates passport, according to court documents and claimed asylum for himself, his wife and their three children.

The British government recognized him as a refugee and allowed him to stay in the country until 1998.

Abu Qatada applied to stay indefinitely, but while his application was pending, a Jordanian court convicted him in absentia on charges related to two 1998 terrorist attacks and a plot to plant bombs to coincide with the millennium.

He was released briefly in 2005 after the repeal of the anti-terrorism law on which he was being held. British authorities ordered his renewed detention that year under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, according to the European Court of Human Rights.

The British government claims that Abu Qatada is a national security risk who has raised money for terrorist groups, including organizations linked to the former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and has publicly supported the violent activities of those groups.