By CASSELL BRYAN-LOW and PETER EVANS
LONDON—The U.K. has deported radical cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan to face terrorism charges, concluding an embarrassing saga for British authorities who have battled to eject him for more than 10 years.
The U.K.’s struggles underscore the challenge for Western governments in balancing human rights in the fight against terrorism.
Since 2001, successive British governments have repeatedly sought and failed to extradite Mr. Qatada, who U.S. and European antiterrorism officials have said they considered a key al Qaeda operative and that he posed a serious risk to national security. A Palestinian from Jordan, Mr. Qatada has been sentenced in absentia by Jordan in 1999 to life imprisonment for involvement in terrorist acts and faces trial.
Mr. Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, has spent several years in jail in Britain, but hasn’t been charged with a crime in U.K. court. He had won repeated appeals in British and European courts to block his extradition by arguing he would face unfair trial if returned to Jordan because he would be at risk of torture and evidence obtained by torture could be used against him.
The path was cleared for his departure after Britain and Jordan last month ratified a treaty on torture intended to address his human-rights concerns. The preacher, who is in his 50s, then indicted he would voluntarily return to Jordan.
Mr. Qatada left the U.K. in the early hours of Sunday and he arrived in Jordan, where he was taken to court.
His father, standing outside the court building, said: “I have nothing to say, except that my son is innocent and I hope the court will set him free,” according to the Associated Press.
In the U.K., David Cameron, the British prime minister, said he was “delighted” Mr. Qatada had now been deported.
“This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country,” said Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May.
“I am also clear that we need to make sense of our human rights laws and remove the many layers of appeals available to foreign nationals we want to deport,” Ms. May said. “We’re taking steps—including through the new immigration bill—to put this right.”
British authorities first tried to deport Mr. Qatada in 2001 and then detained him the following year under antiterrorism laws that at the time allowed suspected terrorists to be jailed without charge.
Since then, he has been in and out of jail and has repeatedly been under stiff bail conditions.
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