LONDON, UK – Radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada has lost his eleventh-hour bid to make a final appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) against his deportation from the UK.
A panel of five judges at the Strasbourg court said the appeal had arrived in time, but rejected it, ruling that there were no grounds to reconsider an earlier decision that the preacher was not at risk of facing torture if returned to Jordan, according to The Daily Telegraph.
In January the court also ruled that Qatada – who has been described in both UK and Spanish courts as a key Al Qaeda figure in Europe and faces terrorism charges in Jordan over alleged bomb plots in 1999 and 2000 – should not be deported if evidence obtained through torture might be used against him in his expected retrial there.
The UK says it has since concluded a deal with Jordan guaranteeing that Qatada will receive a fair trial. According to the BBC, it is unclear how long the Palestinian-Jordanian cleric’s deportation will take, but lawyers for Home Secretary Theresa May have raised the possibility of using a special procedure to speed up the process by declaring that Qatada has no human rights grounds left to argue.
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Qatada was released on bail from Long Lartin maximum-security prison in Worcestershire in February following the ECHR’s ruling, having spent six years in jail. He was re-arrested and put in custody last month after May resumed his deportation.
Wednesday’s decision is a lucky escape for the home secretary, who was left stunned when Qatada’s lawyers submitted their appeal after she had said the deadline for such a move had passed. The EHCR said today that the appeal had arrived 45 minutes before the deadline on April 17.
In a statement Wednesday, May said she was “pleased by the European court’s decision,” The Guardian reports.
She added: “The Qatada case will now go through the British courts. I am confident the assurances we have from Jordan mean we can put Qatada on a plane and get him out of Britain.”
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