Mr Justice Mitting’s decision today refusing the deportation to Jordan of Omar Othman, popularly known as Abu Qatada, is a significant victory for the British legal system over government pressure. His barrister, Edward Fitzgerald QC at once asked for bail, “there is no justification for continuing to deprive Mr Othman of his liberty. Enough is enough, it has gone on for many years now.”
But the future arrangements for Mr Othman’s life in Britain are complex and uncertain with regard to bail and conditions. The extraordinary politicisation of this case, and the government’s investment in winning was underlined when the Home Office immediately announced they would seek leave to appeal. However, this was refused by the court – the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).
This long saga has displayed all the worst elements of the political, legal and social context post 9/11 Britain for refugees, for Muslims, and for those tagged by the security services as related to terrorism.
Secret evidence has been at the heart of Mr Othman’s arrest in 2002, the frequent refusals of bail, two revocations of bail after just a few months when it was finally granted with a restricted regime of 22 hour curfew, electronic tagging, less than a handful of visitors cleared by the Home Office to visit the house, and then only singly. For the best part of a decade he has been incarcerated in a small unit with other Muslim men whom Britain wanted deported or extradited, and where some were driven into full mental illness by the uncertainties of their long prison ordeal, when they had no accusations of any crimes committed in this country. Judge Mitting earlier described the years Mr Othman has been in UK prisons as “extraordinary,” and spoke of a “lamentable” period of time resolving the case.