The government was pursuing a "twin strategy" in its efforts to deport Abu Qatada, Theresa May told the Commons on April 24. That sounded encouraging. But although one of the Home Secretary's two options was blindingly obvious, the other was doomed to failure. She also has a third way, it emerged, which is clearly off the wall.
Of course, that was not quite how May saw it. She reminded MPs that successive governments had tried to send "this dangerous man" back to his native Jordan ever since 2001. But the European Court of Human Rights had blocked his deportation in January 2012 because it found a "real risk" that Qatada — already convicted in his absence of major terrorist conspiracies — would be retried there on evidence that had been obtained through torturing his co-defendants. That, said the Strasbourg judges, "would make the whole trial not only immoral and illegal, but also entirely unreliable in its outcome".
So if Qatada was going to face trial in Jordan, it would obviously have to be on evidence that was not obtained by torture. If there was no such evidence, he could be deported only if the Jordanians abandoned their efforts to put him on trial.
That conclusion has now been accepted by the government of Jordan. On March 24, its ambassador in London signed a 16-page treaty with the UK providing for mutual legal assistance in the "investigation, prosecution and suppression of criminal offences".
Most of this is pretty routine. It will allow witnesses to be interviewed and evidence to be secured in one country on behalf of the other. But then the treaty changes direction and deals with individuals who are sent from one state to the other in order to stand trial.