Preacher of hate hits the jackpot: Bin Laden's man in UK set for huge human rights damages… and guess who pays

By James Slack/Mail Online

Abu Qatada and ten other terror suspects are in line for ‘crazy’ compensation payments. 

Qatada, often described as Osama Bin Laden’s ambassador in Europe, is demanding tens of thousands for being unlawfully held in Belmarsh prison. 

The others have launched similar claims against the Home Office, which is braced for defeat in the European Court of Human Rights. 

                    ABU QATADA

Deportation threat: Abu Qatada is demanding tens of thousands of pounds for being unlawfully held in Belmarsh prison 

Critics called it yet another example of human rights and European law madness. 

They pointed out that the men could have walked free at any time if they had simply agreed to leave Britain. News of the case, which by-passed British courts altogether, overshadowed a victory by the Home Office in the long-running saga over whether Qatada can be deported to Jordan. 

The Law Lords ruled that booting out the preacher of hate would not breach his human rights. But Qatada, 48, – who has already cost the taxpayer £1.5million in legal fees, prison costs and benefit payments – lodged an immediate appeal to the European court. The case could drag on for years, at enormous further cost. 

Qatada, who has been linked to senior Al Qaeda figures, will be allowed to remain in the UK – where his wife and five children live in an £800,000 West London house – while the appeal is heard. 

The 11 men claiming compensation include six Algerians and Abu Rideh, a Palestinian refugee with Al Qaeda connections. 

There is no limit to how much the Strasbourg court can order the Government to pay them if their claim succeeds when the judgment is handed down today. 

A family of Congolese asylum seekers was recently awarded £150,000 for being unlawfully detained for only two months. Some of the men in the Qatada case are claiming for three years in prison, 

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a security adviser to the Prime Minister, said last night: ‘This is crazy. Qatada and the others were free to leave this country, and consumed our taxes while living here. The whole thing is a nonsense.’ 

The compensation claim is based on the time the men spent in Belmarsh under a crackdown in the direct aftermath of September 11. 

Ministers passed an emergency law which allowed the detention without charge or trial of international terror suspects, who could not be forcibly removed because of human rights law. 

It was made clear to the detainees that they would be released immediately if they agreed to leave the UK. In December 2004, the Law Lords ruled their detention was unlawful under the Human Rights Act and quashed the legislation which allowed it. 

In March 2005 it was replaced with the controversial control orders. 

 lord phillips 
 jacqui smith

Big decision: Lord Phillips sat with three other Law Lords on the decision. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith immediately signed the deportation order

The 11 men are claiming for inhuman and degrading treatment’, and unlawful detention, based on the Law Lords ruling.

Their lawyers went direct to Europe because no compensation is available in the British courts. 

Matthew Elliott, chief executive of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, said last night: ‘It’s ridiculous that this hateful man is continuing to cost British taxpayers so much money. 

‘If we weren’t tied down with all this EU human rights legislation then we could have slung him out years ago and saved a huge amount of money. 

‘It’s wrong that law-abiding people are landed with massive bills for extremists just because we have sacrificed our national right to deport undesirables.’ 

Yesterday’s ruling over the deportation of Qatada, whose family receive an estimated £50,000 a year in benefits, is the latest in a saga stretching back seven years. 

He is wanted in his native Jordan, where he was sentenced to life in 1999 for terror offences. 

Jordan is one of a number of countries with which the UK has signed a ‘memorandum of understanding’ which the Home Office insists will ensure deported suspects do not face torture. 

But the Appeal Court had ruled that, while Qatada would not himself face ill-treatment, some of the evidence used against him may have been obtained by torture, so he must remain in the UK. 

That ruling was overturned by the Law Lords yesterday and Home Secretary Jacqui Smith immediately signed a deportation order for the firebrand cleric. 

Her ‘delight’ was quickly checked by Qatada’s lawyers, who announced their intention to appeal to Strasbourg. His solicitor Gareth Peirce said the ruling was a ‘backwards step’ in Britain’s willingness to confront torture, and must be challenged. 

Qatada was released on bail last summer but returned to prison in November over fears he would try to abscond. His detention costs an estimated £50,000 a year.


The 11 Belmarsh claimants who stand to make a fortune are:1

ABU QATADA: Born in Jordan. Arrived in the UK in 1993 on a forged passport and claimed asylum. Described by the courts as the ambassador in Europe for Osama Bin Laden. He was stopped by British police in 2001 with £170,000 in cash, including £805 in an envelope marked ‘For the mujahedin in Chechnya’. He was spiritual leader to Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi, Al Qaeda’s now dead leader in Iraq, responsible for the beheading of Ken Bigley. Videos of his sermons found in the Hamburg flat of Mohammed Atta, one of the September 11 hijackers. 

ABU RIDEH: Arrived in Britain in 1995. Following his detention shortly after 9/11, then Home Secretary David Blunkett told him in a letter: ‘You are an active supporter of various international terrorist groups, including those with links to Osama Bin Laden’s terrorist network.’ He was granted bail in 2005, after being moved from Belmarsh to Broadmoor. 

A: Algerian who was detained in December 2001, accused of actively supporting GSPC, an Algerian group said to have terrorist intentions. Said to ‘broadly support’ the aims of Osama Bin Laden and Al Qaeda. He allegedly used credit card fraud to raise funds for terrorist organisations. 

JAMAL AJOUAOU: Born in Morocco, he came to the UK more than 20 years ago. Arrested in December 2001, he was told he would face detention as a terrorist suspect. He used his rights under the anti-terror laws to ask to leave the UK and returned to Morocco. 

F: First came to the UK on a false Spanish passport. He was arrested in December 2001 on suspicion of supporting the GIA, an Algerian terror group. He was accused of ‘the procurement of terrorism-related materials and equipment and the provision-of false documentation’. F later decided to exercise his right to leave. Now living legally in France. 

B: Algerian-born, he was ordered to leave the UK by officials in 1996, but he remained. He was detained under anti-terrorism powers when the Home Secretary said he belonged to the Algerian GSPC. He was moved from Belmarsh to Broadmoor after a deterioration in his mental health. 

G: Algerian asylum seeker who the Home Office claims encouraged young men to train with Islamist groups in Afghanistan and has links with al-Qaeda members. Immigration judges said they were satisfied G was an ‘international terrorist … his presence in the UK is a risk to national security’. Released in 2004 after suffering a mental collapse at Belmarsh. Mr Blunkett condemned the decision as ‘extraordinary’. 

E: Tunisian who claimed asylum. He waited six years for a decision, was rejected but then told he could stay until 2005. Detained in December 
2001. Mr Blunkett told him: ‘You have provided direct assistance to a number of active terrorists.’ 

H: An Algerian supporter of the FIS, the Islamist Algerian group that won the country’s 1991 elections, prompting a military coup. He arrived in the UK in 1993 and claimed asylum, saying his support for the FIS meant his life was in danger if he returned home. He was given refugee status, but was arrested in 2002. The Home Office said he posed a terrorist threat. 

P: An Algerian who reportedly has no hands, he arrived in Britain in 1999 and was charged with terrorist offences in 2001. Those charges were later dropped but he remained accused of being an associate of Algerian terror groups. 

K: Algerian who arrived in the UK from Spain in 1998.

Terror suspects get  anonymity protection:

Eight of the 11 terror suspects claiming compensation are protected by anonymity orders.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission – which hears all deportation cases involving terror suspects – grants automatic and immediate anonymity to anyone who appears before it.

This can be lifted only if the suspect decides to place his or her name in the public domain, as Abu Qatada did.

It gives terror suspects a protection not afforded to people in the regular court system, where all defendants over 18 are routinely named.

But SIAC’s stance reflects the fact that the men have not been charged with any criminal offence and some of the evidence against them is heard in secret.