The story of Omar Othman, known as Abu Qatada, ought to be a cautionary tale. The right hand man of bin Laden in Europe, associated with Muhammad Atta and other murderous Islamists, he has nevertheless contrived to make utter fools of the British. His instrument was the law. It turns out, unbelievably, that the Islamist damage he has done is far outstripped by the damage inflicted by lawyers.
Abu Qatada and his wife and children entered Britain in 1993 on forged United Emirate passports — reason enough, you might think, to deport them. A skilled claimant of every available welfare, he lived at a high standard off the British tax-payer. When arrested, he had a six figure account of money due to be remitted to al-Qaeda. Jordan was pursuing him on a murder charge. He claimed that one of the witnesses against him had been tortured. There appears to be no independent corroboration of this, only his say so. The deportation order worked its way for years through the appeal courts, until the Supreme Court finally came to the conclusion to return him to his home country.
Ah, not so fast. British law is splintering and there are plenty of lawyers willing to finish it off. The European Court of Human Rights, sitting in Strasbourg, was brought in on the case. All but one of them foreign nationals, the judges there also had no evidence that this putative witness in Jordan might have been tortured, but the mere possibility was enough for them. To return Abu Qatada might risk committing an injustice, infringing his rights. The government can appeal, but in the event that the European Court verdict stands, Abu Qatada will have to be set free, in effect having discovered how to make his projected victims complicit in their own destruction, while he remains a well-rewarded and successful criminal.
A country that surrenders its legal persona will not survive long, nor does it deserve to. But who could have imagined that a pack of progressive lawyers could achieve in a few years what Britain’s armed enemies could not over many centuries.