An overwhelming majority of Britons support the deportation to his native Jordan of Abu Qatada al-Filistini, the radical Muslim cleric implicated in Islamist terrorism, notwithstanding fears expressed by some that he may not receive a fair trial in his homeland.
This is according to a YouGov poll for today’s edition of The Sunday Times. A representative sample of 1,753 adults aged 18 and over was interviewed online on 9 and 10 February 2012. Data tables have been posted at:
Abu Qatada has been in Britain since 1993, having been given asylum here in 1994 for reasons of religious persecution in Jordan. He has mostly been in British custody since shortly after 7/7 in 2005 but has been fighting deportation on human rights grounds.
Last week a High Court judge in a Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled that Abu Qatada should be released on bail, to the fury of the UK Government and – it now seems – the general public, also.
70% of YouGov’s respondents opted for Abu Qatada’s deportation, regardless of whether he can be guaranteed a fair trial abroad. The over-60s and Conservative voters (82% each) especially clamoured for this.
20% wanted guarantees of a fair trial as a condition of deportation, with 18-24s (37%), Liberal Democrats (35%) and Londoners (30%) most in favour. Only 1% opposed deportation, with 9% unsure.
Confronted with the recent decision of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) that Abu Qatada should not be deported to Jordan as evidence obtained from torture might be used against him, 54% wanted Britain to ignore the ECHR and deport Abu Qatada. Again, Conservatives (67%) and over-60s (68%) took the strongest line.
A further 33% (including 48% of Liberal Democrats and the 18-24s and 45% of Londoners) considered that Britain ought to abide by the ECHR ruling but seek assurances from Jordan that evidence obtained by torture would not be used against Abu Qatada. In the light of the ECHR judgment, the number opposed to deportation grew to 4%, with 8% uncertain what should be done.
However, the greatest hostility toward Abu Qatada was reserved for the suggestion that, once bailed, he might go back on to state benefits, as he had been before his arrest in 2005.
82% of YouGov’s sample opposed this possibility, rising to 91% of Conservative voters and the over-60s. Just 12% (but 26% of Liberal Democrats, 25% of Londoners and 21% of 18-24s) felt he should be able to claim benefits.
The replies to this last question exemplify, not simply negativity toward radical Islam, but an increasingly hardening public attitude toward recipients of state benefits, which has become very noticeable since the onset of economic recession in 2008.