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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 21:45 GMT 22:45 UK
'Torture threat' to cleric Qatada
Abu Qatada
Abu Qatada is appealing his deportation to Jordan
Radical preacher Abu Qatada, accused of being a key al-Qaeda figure, could face torture if he is sent home to Jordan, an immigration hearing has been told.

Qatada's lawyers told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that the government recognised that there was a "very real risk" of torture in Jordan.

They said he could also face execution, or detention without a court hearing.

However, government lawyers said the risk that Qatada would be executed was very low.

Home Secretary John Reid wants Qatada deported as he is regarded as a threat to national security.

The risk is just too low, it is improbability heaped on improbability
Ian Burnett QC
Lawyer for the government

Qatada's lawyer, Edward Fitzgerald QC, told the appeal: "The very real risk of torture has been historically recognised by the government and is the specific reason why the appellant has been recognised as a refugee and not hitherto deported."

The UK has signed an agreement with Jordan so that anyone sent back will not be tortured or killed.

The government's lawyer, Ian Burnett QC, said if Qatada faced execution "the British government is likely to take the opportunity to ask the king to commute any death sentence."

He dismissed the statements by Qatada's lawyer about the threat of execution.

"The risk is just too low, it is improbability heaped on improbability."

He also said that Qatada could not be extradited to the US from Jordan as the extradition treaty between the two countries was currently frozen.

Further written legal arguments will be put before the appeal panel before a judgement is made.


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