At 3am on Sunday morning the Home Office of successive UK governments finally got their way. Abu Qatada boarded a plane bound to Jordan to face charges of terrorism aimed at the Jordanian people and state. Mr Qatada came to Britain in the 1990s to escape persecution at home and spent the last 20 years here, in and out if jail, or under house arrest.
The controversial figure has never committed an offence in the UK, but was of course heavily involved in attempted attacks in Jordan and has huge links to terrorist cells across Europe. He took on a leadership role, in a spiritual, organisational and logistical manger in the UK, and has been called the “spiritual leader of Al-Qaeda in Europe”. Detained terrorists in Spain made repeated references to their inspiration coming from him, and he was detained in London attempting to send money to Chechen terrorists. Time after time in his sermons he has called on Muslims to mount a war against the infidels, and strike back against the “evil west”. He defended Osama Bin Laden as “an honourable brother in the nation of Islam who defended his religion” and that “he should be worshiped by all”.
During his time in the UK he almost never spoke in English and it is estimated by the Telegraph that during his stay in the UK has cost the British taxpayer £3,000,000 in benefits whilst inciting hatred and violent views against the country. He advocated “Jihad and martyrdom” to fix the world, and spoke of his pleasure of Muslims being killed who had committed apostasy. He has been a nuisance to have, has cost us a lot of money, and the amount of effort that has gone into getting rid of him shows just how much of a threat he is.
At first he was embraced with open arms as a refugee, and given a house, benefits and school places for his children. He moved deep into the London Islamist scene, a hub for terrorist exiles from Arab states, and taught of the need to establish sharia-led governments across the Middle East, and expel invaders and Western-friendly Arab statesmen. MI5 even approached him on several occasions for his assistance in breaking down British Islamist terrorism. We were obviously at first, not on the right track and too easy on him.
Now he is gone, what does it mean for terrorism in the UK? Al-Shabaab stated in 2012 they would attack us if he was detained, so MI5 and the police will have to be on special alert in case they put their actions where their mouth is. There will be a likely backlash in the form of protests and demos from Islamist groups, and someone may take his place. His influence, legacy and teaching are gone, but he can do no more damage. Of course, taking out a figurehead of such magnitude will set back the movement, and it will be temporarily disorganised. Most importantly, his expertise, connections and leadership qualities are gone, and the new leader may be a much easier target than him. Hopefully the Jordanian authorities can extract information from him on possible targets for terrorism in the future, and information on the main suspects.
Theresa May has spoken out against the European Court of Justice as they blocked the deportation on the ground he might be tortured. She also said she would leave the Human Rights Act if need be to ensure successful deportation.
Ultimately it seems a good thing he is gone. The way he has spoken about the British people and how he has continually aided terrorists around the globe, as well as claimed money off the taxpayer really is a bit of a joke. It is not fair for him to come here, attempt to foster violence against those who are not in his view “sharia-abiding Muslims”. It was however, fair to have him in jail, posing little threat to the public whilst his freedom from torture could be assured. It is not acceptable for anyone to be tortured, even if they are as dangerous an individual as Abu Qatada.