The most ridiculous thing about the current debate over what to do with Abu Qatada is that everyone agrees he is a vile, morally corrupt crook who should receive condemnation from all quarters. It is just a question of what to do with him.
There is no doubt that his record is pretty incriminating. In the UK he is accused of inciting hatred and terrorism while more tangibly in Jordan there is evidence to suggest he was implicated in bombing the American School and Jerusalem Hotel in 1998. But perhaps the most damning evidence is that videos of his fundamentalist preaching were found in the Hamburg residence of some of the 9/11 plane hijackers.
We do not want to lower ourselves to the levels of terrorists.
It is a tragedy that the human rights laws in this country are protecting a man whose values show complete disregard for our own human rights. His views are not compatible with our society, and yet liberalism is the very force that is protecting him. But for me this is not a matter that concerns Abu Qatada’s human rights. As far as I am concerned, as soon as an individual starts calling into question the human rights of others, their own quickly begin to look dubious. However, the issue over Abu Qatada should be an opportunity to make an opportunity to define the moral standards that we submit to in this country.
The European Court of Human Rights, one of Winston Churchill’s legacies, has blocked Qatada’s deportation to Jordan because there can be no guarantee that evidence used against him while on trial will not been obtained through torture. If a mark of British society is the right to a fair trial and abhorrence at the use of torture that should be a quality that is enforced abroad as much as it is here. We do not want to lower ourselves to the levels of terrorists. Furthermore, we do not want to lower ourselves to the levels of those who have antagonised the terrorists in the first place. There is no greater recruiter of radical Islamist extremists than the American human rights record at Guantanamo Bay.
It is an absolute injustice that he has been held in the UK…
This is an opportunity to stand up for British values and to take the moral high ground. Abu Qatada is not exactly the most appealing poster boy for a human rights argument, but in many ways, that enforces the point all the more; the United Kingdom stands for justice, equality before the law, and the right to a fair trial.
There is no doubt now that the government, and indeed the former government just want to be free of the problem that Qatada poses. It is an absolute injustice that he has been held in the UK for nearly ten years, spending up to six years in prison and has not been found guilty of anything.
…the current situation is unacceptable and unsustainable.
If, as we are told, video evidence against Qatada that implicates him in terrorism cannot be used in a British court as it would exposes key sources, then why not get him for something else? In 2001 police found £170,000 in his home including an envelope containing £805 intended for the ‘mujahideen of Chechnya’. If that is not prime evidence, then what is?
Regardless, it is clear that the current situation is unacceptable and unsustainable. As David Cameron said last week in parliament, “it is not acceptable that we end up with a situation where someone in your country who threatens to do you harm, that you cannot try, that you cannot detain and you cannot deport.”
…some damaging evidence against the government…
This is indeed correct, but what is also unacceptable is imposing restrictions on an individual such as a 22 hour curfew, and withholding the right to use the internet or a mobile phone, when no evidence against this man has been presented to a British court. Apart from being a complete mockery of our justice system, it is giving this man and everything that he stands for, publicity that he does not deserve.
The eagerness to deport Qatada and the unwillingness to put him in on trial in the UK suggests a court case could prove embarrassing for the government. They are clearly trying to cover something up. As Richard Norton-Taylor suggested recently in The Guardian, Qatadas links with Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, two former inmates at Guantanamo Bay with connections to MI5 could expose some damaging evidence against the government if the issue ever went to court.
He effectively sums up how pathetic the situation is…
Abu Qatada should be put on trial in the UK. Let our justice system pass a verdict on him, and let that be a statement, not only of our own values, but as a symbol to the rest of the world. In the face of extremism and evil, those who judge themselves by equality and justice, will stand up for what they believe in.
The final word shall go to Michael Portillo speaking on the BBC last week. He effectively sums up how pathetic the situation is that we find ourselves, “How is it that John Terry can be brought to trial in the UK for a hate crime but Abu Qatada cannot?” Let’s get real.