AMMAN, (AFP) — Jordan said on Tuesday it has made progress in talks with Britain on the extradition of Abu Qatada, once dubbed an aide of Osama bin Laden, who faces terror charges in the Arab kingdom.
Meeting with Home Secretary Theresa May, Prime Minister Awan Khasawneh “expressed satisfaction with progress made in cooperation between the two governments on the issue of Jordanian citizen Abu Qatada,” state news agency Petra reported.
He did not elaborate on what developments there had been, but “stressed the importance of continued coordination on this matter, in a way that respects the independence of judicial systems in Jordan and Britain.”
Abu Qatada, whom a Spanish judge labelled the right-hand man of slain Al-Qaeda chief bin Laden, was convicted in Jordan in absentia of involvement in terror attacks in 1998, and faces a retrial on his return.
Britain has been trying to extradite the 51-year-old radical Islamist cleric for the past six years, claiming he is a serious risk to national security, but its efforts have been thwarted on human rights grounds.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled in January that Britain cannot deport Abu Qatada because evidence used against him in any trial in Jordan may have been obtained through torture.
Amman has pledged that Abu Qatada would get a “fair and transparent” trial if London extradites him to the kingdom.
“Jordan respects the rule of law as well as human rights. It has a judicial system that ensures fair trial of anybody on Jordanian territory,” Khasawneh told May.
Petra said May, who arrived in Amman on Monday on a three-day visit to discuss a possible deal on Abu Qatada’s extradition, “hailed Jordan’s improvement in human rights.”