From Magna Carta to Abu Qatada

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8 February 2012


Nothing that spies say about anything should be treated as true without cast-iron independent corroboration.

This is a precaution that holds good in any circumstances, at any time and in respect of any state.

Spies lie.

Sir Henry Wotton (1568 – 1639), English ambassador to Venice, said: “An ambassador is an honest man sent to lie abroad for the good of his country.”

What is true of diplomats, is applicable a fortiori to spies. And they don’t need to go abroad to do it.

They operate in total secrecy and without anything but token supervision.

Their budgets are kept under wraps.

They are accountable in theory to Ministers but in practice to no one.

In London right now is a guy the spooks don’t like.

His name is Abu Qatada.

Okay, that’s not an Anglo-Saxon monicker, I give you that, and he doesn’t come from Scotland, Wales or Ireland either.

In fact, born in Bethlehem on the West Bank in 1960, he has Jordanian citizenship.

He first pitched up on these shores in 1993, was given asylum and, whadya know, he’s been “in trouble with the police” a lot since then.

In fact, he’s been in and out of prison more times than you or I have had hot breakfasts.


This past six and a half years, for instance, he has spent doing time “at Her Majesty’s pleasure”. Without trial. Just picked off the streets and banged up. You know. Like in China, for instance.

This guy is real dangerous, the spooks tell us. Or, to be accurate, that is what they have briefed the media. Again, like in China. Off the record briefings, you know, the usual procedure. No names, no pack-drill.

This guy is about as dangerous as they come.

The stories leaked to journalists about Abu Qatada include his alleged fund-raising for terrorist groups, including training Muslims in Afghanistan to fight against the occupying US, UK and allied armies.

Police are also said to have found a substantial sum of money “in cash” at his home, some of it allegedly destined for Muslims fighting against Putin’s savage puppet dictator Ramzan Kadyrov in Chechnya.


He is also said to have “been asked for advice” by Richard Reid, the would-be shoe bomber, who has since been jailed for terrorism.

“What sort of shoes do you think I should wear, Mr Qatada, brogues or winkle-pickers?”

To cap it all, Qatada is also alleged to have been the late Osama bin Laden’s “right-hand man in Europe”.

Naturally, this major international terrorist “suspect” is said to pose a grave threat to British national security.

Jumping on the securocrat bandwagon on the Guardian website on 7 February 2012, commentator Simon Jenkins writes:

“There is no argument. The Muslim cleric Abu Qatada is as unpleasant a character as ever graced Britain’s shores. Wanted on terrorism charges in eight countries, including his own of Jordan, his championing of al-Qaida and his delight in terrorist outrages puts him beyond any reasonable pale. He propounds violence and seeks to corrupt the young. There is no obligation on any country to tolerate such a guest. He is a citizen of Jordan and has forfeited any serious claim on the hospitality of the British judicial system.”

Yet where do all these allegations come from?

They come from the state’s secret security apparatus – the spies.

They have all the hall-marks of black propaganda.

Without evidence tested in a court of law, no one can know whether they are valid or not.


The British state wants to rid itself of Abu Qatada regardless.

It is briefing the media that Abu Qatada is a bad, bad guy.

Well, to cite Mandy Rice-Davies, it would, wouldn’t it?

But until evidence to that effect is tested in a court of law we cannot know whether the allegations are true or not.

The funny thing is that Abu Qatada, however dangerous he is alleged to be, has never been charged in a UK court with any crime.

As a result, he has never been proved guilty in a UK court of any crime.

And yet he has just spent six and a half years in clink.

According to the lead story in the Guardian on 7 February 2012, this is the longest period in modern times that a suspect has been held in custody without trial.

Funny that.

According to English law, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court. Moreover, suspects cannot be kept in detention indefinitely. They must be presented to a court within a reasonable time to answer any charges against them.


Abu Qatada has been found guilty and not tried.

He has been found guilty in the court of public opinion and not tried in a court of law.

Why on earth have no charges been brought against this allegedly extremely dangerous man?

We do not know. It’s as simple as that.

However, writing on the Guardian’s website on 6 February 2012, security specialist Richard Norton-Taylor makes a suggestion:

“MI5 and the police might not have welcomed a trial because it would have resurrected the circumstances surrounding the seizure by the CIA of two British residents – Jamil el-Banna, a Jordanian national, and Bisher al-Rawi, an Iraqi – in Gambia in 2002, leading to their rendition to Guantánamo Bay…..Rawi had…helped MI5 to obtain information about Qatada. Banna had prayed in the same mosque as Qatada when they lived in Peshawar, Pakistan. Banna, Rawi and Qatada later prayed in the same mosque in London.”

Praying in the same mosque?

That’s bad. Very bad.

One can smell a rat.

This case stinks.

Meanwhile, a judge sitting for the UK’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission, Mr Justice Mitting, has just ruled that Abu Qatada must be released on bail, albeit under conditions of virtual house-arrest, including a 22-hour curfew and electronic tagging.

Moreover, someone as dangerous as this man allegedly is is bound to be kept under 24-hour surveillance by the police and the security authorities, with his telephone being tapped and his visitors monitored.

How is it conceivable that, under these conditions, Abu Qatada can possibly present a grave threat to British national security?


Nonetheless, the Government wants to deport him to back lickety-split to Jordan to face terrorism charges there. However, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that this would be illegal on the grounds that he would not get a fair trial in Jordan since evidence obtained through torture could be used against him.

According to the Guardian’s Andrew Sparrow, Downing Street (the Prime Minister’s office) has announced that a minister from the Home Office (Interior Ministry) will fly to Jordan next week to try and obtain assurances that could lead to Abu Qatada being deported.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister David Cameron told the House of Commons today 8 February:

We are doing everything we can to get this man out of the country. The absolutely key thing to do is an agreement with Jordan about the way that he will be treated. This guy should have been deported years ago. Nevertheless, if we can get that agreement with Jordan, he can be on his way.”

Before that happens, however, we need to know : (1) whether the European Court of Human Rights is prepared to rescind its ban on the deportation of Abu Qatada; (2) whether the Jordanian state uses torture in its handling of suspects; (3) whether free, fair and open trials take place in Jordan;(4) how reliable any assurances given to Britain by the Jordanian authorities are; and (5) what steps Britain is proposing to take to monitor Abu Qatada’s treatment in the event that he is deported to Jordan.

If Jordan has been awarded any prizes as a bastion of human rights, it has escaped our attention.


Magna Carta was signed under duress at Runnymede by bad King John in 1215. It contains the following three clauses (translated at Fordham University, New York, from the original Latin):

“(38) In future no official shall place a man on trial upon his own unsupported statement, without producing credible witnesses to the truth of it.

(39) No free man shall be seized or imprisoned, or stripped of his rights or possessions, or outlawed or exiled, or deprived of his standing in any other way, nor will we proceed with force against him, or send others to do so, except by the lawful judgement of his equals or by the law of the land.

(40) To no one will we sell, to no one deny or delay right or justice.”

Much later, the HABEAS CORPUS ACT of 1679 prescribed that defendants could not be kept in detention indefinitely. They must be presented to a court within a reasonable time to answer any charges against them.

These provisions constitute the bedrock of civil liberties in Britain.


This entry was posted in Jordan, Justice, Politics, Torture, UK, UN and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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