The government seeks assurances from Jordan as it steps up its efforts to deport Islamist cleric Abu Qatada, who has been described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe”.
Prime Minister David Cameron is talking to King Abdullah of Jordan, while Home Office Minister James Brokenshire is flying to the country next week.
Mr Cameron told the Commons on Wednesday: “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.”
Earlier this week, an immigration judge ruled that Qatada should be released on bail from Belmarsh prison after more than six years in custody fighting deportation.
It followed a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that he could not be sent back to his native Jordan without assurances that he would not be tried using evidence obtained under torture.
Officials said Mr Brokenshire would now be seeking assurances so the deportation could go ahead.
It is not acceptable that you end up with a situation where you have someone in your country that threatens to do you harm. David Cameron
Mr Cameron told MPs: “It is not acceptable that you end up with a situation where you have someone in your country that threatens to do you harm, that you cannot try, you cannot detain and you cannot deport.”
In his absence from Jordan, Qatada, 51, was convicted of involvement in terrorist attacks in 1998 and was featured in videos found in the flat of one of the 9/11 bombers. Since the 2001 attacks in the US, the cleric has successfully challenged every attempt by the government to extradite him.
A Downing Street spokeswoman said the prime minister and Mr Brokenshire would be seeking assurances that Jordan would not use evidence gathered by torture in any future trial.
Mrs May said: “The right place for a terrorist is a prison cell; the right place for a foreign terrorist is a foreign prison cell far away from Britain.” She added that British courts had found that Qatada “poses a serious risk to our national security”, has a “long-standing association with al-Qaeda and provides “religious justification for acts of violence and terror”.
Qatada’s bail conditions include a 22-hour daily curfew and restrictions over who he can meet. In 2009, the law lords ruled that he could be deported to Jordan, based on the assurances the government had received from Amman. He then took his case to the ECHR.
Qatada came to Britain in 1993 on a forged passport. He was first detained in 2002, after an immigration court described him as a “truly dangerous individual”.
He was released on bail in 2008, but returned to prison later that year over fears he would try to abscond. Human rights group Liberty believes he should be tried for terrorism in Britain.