British officials have requested a pardon for terrorism suspect Abu Qatada because of concerns that evidence against him was obtained by torture, a British diplomat told a court hearing on Thursday.
AP reports that the Palestinian-born Jordanian cleric, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, has been accused of ties to al-Qaida and was convicted in absentia in Jordan over bomb plots and will face another trial if he is extradited from Britain.
Qatada has been fighting efforts to extradite him from Britain since 2001.
The torture charge is blocking Britian from extraditing the cleric, who courts have described as Osama bin Laden's right hand man in Europe.
British officials have requested that Jordanian authorities not use statements made by two witnesses who they allege were tortured during interrogations, reports the Telegraph newspaper.
The Jordanian government denied the UK's requests and said it would need to be proved in court that the evidence was obtained using torture.
Britain and Jordan have already signed an agreement stating that the preacher will not face ill-treatment but that is reportedly not enough for Britain to go ahead with the extradition.
Anthony Layden, a former British ambassador to Libya and a specialist in diplomatic negotiations, gave evidence at the tribunal that British officials had sought a pardon during negotiations back in February, reports the BBC.
The meeting took place in Jordan between Jordanian officials and a British government minister, James Brokenshire.
Layden told the court Thursday, "I think the question of a pardon had been asked earlier and Mr Brokenshire was asking for an answer," reports the BBC.
The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled in January that the preacher could not be sent back to Jordan in case prosecutors there used evidence obtained through torture against him, reports The Telegraph.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission hearing in central London heard that British ministers and senior civil servants went to Jordan to try and find a way around this “obstacle” to removing Qatada. The hearing is expected to last eight days.