LONDON – Radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada was deported early today from the U.K. to Jordan to face terror charges, ending a more than decadelong battle to remove a man described as a key al-Qaida operative in Europe.
The move comes after Britain and Jordan ratified a treaty on torture aimed at easing human rights concerns that had blocked previous attempts to deport the Palestinian-born Jordanian preacher.
Abu Qatada was wanted in Jordan for retrial in several terror cases in which he was sentenced in absentia. Britain had tried since 2001 to deport Abu Qatada – whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman – but courts have blocked extradition over concerns that evidence obtained under torture could be used against him.
After years of successfully fighting the numerous attempts to expel him from the U.K., the 53-year-old preacher recently indicated he would voluntarily return to Jordan if that country and Britain ratified a treaty on torture.
That treaty – which explicitly bans the use of evidence “where there are serious and credible allegations that a statement from a person has been obtained by torture or ill-treatment” – was ratified by Britain and Jordan last month. It paved the way for the long-awaited removal of the man described in courts in Britain and Spain as a senior al-Qaida figure in Europe who had close ties to the late Osama bin Laden.