Government's Abu Qatada woes increase
Published: 18th Apr 2012 18:49:23
Has the latest row over the deportation of the radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada come down to a misunderstanding about when midnight on Tuesday is?
Is it Monday night into Tuesday morning, or Tuesday night into Wednesday morning? The Home Office went for the first option, it seems, and the European Court of Human Rights the second.
This matters for two reasons: the credibility of the home secretary and how long it might take before Abu Qatada is put on a plane to Jordan - and whether he is released from prison in the mean time.
In her Commons statement, Theresa May suggested the government had a legally-watertight case to send Abu Qatada to Jordan, but it could take some months.
The home secretary, believing the deadline for an appeal to the court's Grand Chamber had passed, told MPs he could be removed from the UK "in full compliance of law."
But on Wednesday the court revealed it had received a request at 2200 BST on Tuesday evening, which it said was before the deadline.
Politically, it is potentially very awkward for the home secretary.
Her central pitch in the Commons was the government had secured a position of relative clarity: it could convince the European Court of Human Rights that Abu Qatada would get a fair trial in Jordan, and that evidence against him would not have been extracted by torture.
Yes, the process would take some time, but there was a clear process that had begun.
But it looks rather less clear now.
"I've been clear to everybody there were legal avenues for him to pursue," Mrs May told the BBC. "He has employed this delaying tactic. I'm not surprised, I don't think anybody should be surprised at that and I think he did this only after he had seen the strength of the case that we have for resuming his deportation to Jordan."
But shadow justice minister Chris Bryant shot back: "What seems to have happened is that the very basic details weren't done before the big fanfare of the announcement yesterday."
The reaction from some Conservative backbenchers has followed a pattern: support for the home secretary, criticism of Home Office civil servants.
Former shadow home secretary David Davis said the Home Office had "dropped the home secretary and the ministers in it."
Tory backbencher Mark Reckless was even more blunt: "Whoever is the home secretary, the Home Office is institutionally incompetent."
"So long as civil servants are unaccountable, so long as they are promoted however wrong they get things, things will not change," Mr Reckless added.
For some days, making a broader point, the outspoken Conservative MP Douglas Carswell has been suggesting civil servants are too powerful within government.
"Concerned about Sir Humphrey? It's not just me," is the headline of his latest blog. He even asked David Cameron about it at Prime Minister's Questions.
Meanwhile, the questions for the Home Office and the home secretary, that perpetually poisoned chalice of cabinet posts, keep coming.
The deportation of Abu Qatada is an intensely emotive issue. Red meat for newspapers, with big political ramifications.
Even the biggest supporters of the European Court of Human Rights acknowledge that "fast track" is not in its DNA. One person's procedural niceties and due process are another's never-ending pontificating.
It can lead to a feeling for some that decisions are forever getting kicked into the legal long grass.
The political danger for the government is that the grass might just have got even longer.
At 00:59:22 in PoliticsA "badly managed" Home Office scheme resulted in asylum seekers being placed in "unacceptably poor" housing, the Public Accounts Committee has said.
At 00:48:17 in HeadlinesSouth Sudan's President Salva Kiir has sacked the head of the army.
At 00:39:06 in EnglandThe decline of some regional English dialects has been mourned for years but now sign language is being hit by the same trend. Researchers say regional variations that produced 22 different ways of signing the word "purple" are dying out.
At 00:29:16 in HeadlinesFormula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone is set to appear at the start of a trial on bribery charges in Munich.
At 00:16:58 in BusinessEnergy grids across the world are struggling to cope with a surge in demand for electricity and increasingly volatile supply from renewable power sources.
At 00:11:50 in SportEighteen-time US Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps says concerns about weight gain were behind his decision to return to the sport.
At 00:09:32 in BusinessBeckford's Tower stands proudly on the hills overlooking the spa city of Bath, a monument to eccentricity and wealth.
At 00:01:40 in TechnologyDrones are becoming more common in our skies, performing a variety of tasks, from taking photos to monitoring crops and potentially even delivering broadband.
At 00:01:37 in HeadlinesBritish counter-terrorism police chiefs are making an unprecedented appeal to Muslim women to urge men against travelling to possibly fight in Syria.
At 23:52:22 in SportA turbulent three days for Manchester United has ended with them fending off allegations of unprofessionalism labelled against them by the League Managers Association (LMA).
Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. Government's Abu Qatada woes increase [Online] (Updated 18th Apr 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1423191/Governments-Abu-Qatada-woes-increase [Accessed 24th Apr 2014]
News In Other Categories
Drones are becoming more common in our skies, performing a variety of tasks, from taking photos to monitoring crops and potentially even delivering broadband.
Energy grids across the world are struggling to cope with a surge in demand for electricity and increasingly volatile supply from renewable power sources.
Police in Orkney have confirmed that the number two Churchill Barrier remains closed following a fatal road accident.
The decline of some regional English dialects has been mourned for years but now sign language is being hit by the same trend. Researchers say regional variations that produced 22 different ways of signing the word "purple" are dying out.
Eighteen-time US Olympic swimming champion Michael Phelps says concerns about weight gain were behind his decision to return to the sport.
US actress Jodie Foster has married her girlfriend, Alexandra Hedison, the actress' representative confirms.