Friday, February 17, 2012

Another triumph for Mr Blair

Let’s lay the blame where it’s due. The reason one of the world’s most wanted terrorists is being freed from jail and given permission to take his kids to school is because Tony Blair signed the European Convention on Human Rights.

If the millionaire charlatan who ran the country for a dismal decade hadn’t wanted to prove just how “European” he was, we’d never have been lumbered with all that human rights nonsense in the first place.

It’s bad enough when the legislation is used to give prisoners the vote or Romanian “Big Issue” sellers the right to taxpayer-subsidised housing.

It’s utterly scandalous when it’s used to keep Abu Qatada, one of the world’s most dangerous men, out of jail even though he’s wanted for terrorist offences in eight different countries.

Our courts have ruled that Mr Qatada’s human rights are more important than the human rights of the rest of us.

Keeping him in jail without trial while trying to deport him to his native Jordan is a breach of his human rights, it seems.

So out he comes from Long Lartin prison in Worcestershire, back to the bosom of his family – a wife and five children living in taxpayer-funded bliss in his £800,000 council house in Wembley.

Foolishly, we gave Mr Qatada asylum as long ago as 1993 when he arrived claiming to be a refugee from religious persecution – even though he got into Britain on a forged passport.

Since then, he has called on British Muslims to martyr themselves in a holy war against “oppression”. He issued a fatwa justifying the murder of converts from Islam, their wives and children in Algeria.

He has called for the killing of Jews and praised attacks on Americans.

Jordan sentenced him in absentia in 2000 to life imprisonment for his involvement in a plot to bomb tourists attending the country’s Millennium celebrations.

Videos of his hate-sermons were found in the Hamburg flat used by the 9/11 bombers.

When he was arrested in February 2001 he was found in possession of £170,000 in cash, including £805 in an envelope marked “For the mujahedin in Chechnya”.

He is wanted on terrorism charges in Algeria, the United States, Belgium, Spain, France, Germany and Italy, as well as Jordan.

Abu Qatada has been described as “Al Qaeda's spiritual leader in Europe”, “Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe”, “the most significant extremist preacher in the UK” and “a truly dangerous individual”.

Even the dear old Home Office says: "This is a dangerous man who we believe poses a real threat to our security and who has not changed in his views or attitude to the UK."

In the light of this country’s long-standing traditions, there is something objectionable to holding people in jail for year after year when they have not been convicted of any crime.

And it seems Mr Qatada has not broken any laws in this country – though that’s hard to believe, given the long list of crimes he is alleged to have been involved with elsewhere.

This country has a long and proud record of protecting the rights of the individual from the over-mighty State. And you could argue that the release of Mr Qatada is just the latest example of that noble tradition.

Certainly there is something repulsive about the kind of Guantanamo Bay detention centre where alleged terrorists are held without trial for years and left to rot in perpetual limbo.

Yet even within the best traditions of this country’s laws and liberties, it has always been necessary to balance the rights of the individual against those of society as a whole.

Mr Qatada entered this country illegally. He is wanted for acts of terrorism in half a dozen countries, all friendly nations.

Yet we have tied ourselves up in ridiculous human rights legislation to the extent that it is almost impossible to rid ourselves of this man, no matter how dangerous or repulsive he may be.

By opposing deportation on the grounds that Mr Qatada may not get a fair trial, Europe’s human rights judges are assuming that Jordan’s legal system is inferior to theirs.

But standards of justice are not the same the world over and what right do the judges of Macedonia, Ukraine, Albania and Moldova (among others) have to pronounce on the subject?

These are among the 47 countries which provide judges for the European Court of Human Rights.

We are being dictated to by lawyers from countries which didn’t even exist a few years ago and certainly have only a passing acquaintance with democracy and the rule of law.

On his release from jail, Abu Qatada will be living at our expense while we pay for his continuing fight against extradition and we pay to police his activities and try to stop him encouraging terrorism.

Is this really the price of freedom, democracy and the rule of law – or just another example of how this country is no longer capable of defending its own interests?

I can’t help thinking of Enoch Powell’s warning: “Those whom the gods wish to destroy, they first make mad.”

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