A date has been set for the deportation of Muslim cleric Abu Qatada after a drawn-out legal battle between the British and Jordanian government.
A Jordanian government official confirmed that Abu Qatada is expected to leave the UK on Sunday and arrive in Jordan the morning of the same day.
Whilst the Home Office has not confirmed this date, a senior civil servant stated that the cleric would be put on a plane “at the earliest opportunity.”
The deportation of Abu Qatada moved a step closer after the Jordanian government published details of an extradition treaty with the UK that paves the way for his exit. The landmark treaty was signed between Jordan and the UK banning evidence obtained by torture in Jordanian Courts.
Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman lives in Wembley, North London. He told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in May he was ready to return to Jordan as long as the country signed the treaty. Jordan yesterday officially published the new treaty between Amman and London, guaranteeing that Abu Qatada would not face a re-trial on terrorism charges based on evidence gathered under torture.
This formal step cleared the way for the Home Secretary, Theresa May, to issue another deportation notice. Abu Qatada had 72 hours to formally lodge an appeal against the notice, but he has indicated he will not challenge his removal once the treaty has been fully ratified.
Channel 4 News reported that the Home Office plans to fly the cleric out of Northolt Airport in West London at 2am on Sunday in a military plane ending the government’s eight year long battle to deport him.
Despite monitoring Abu Qatada for nearly 25 years, the UK authorities were unable to bring charges against the preacher. The government said that it was unable to bring a case against Abu Qatada because all the evidence against him is based on information obtained by the British intelligence services. Despite many attempts to do so, the authorities have not been able to link him directly to specific terrorist activities, either in Britain or abroad.
In contrast with the above, Theresa May called Abu Qatada a “very dangerous terrorist”. Former security minister Hazel Blears said we should be “horrified” at the prospect of Abu Qatada being on the streets. And shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the government should “strain every sinew” to have the cleric deported.
Abu Qatada was convicted in Jordan, in absentia, of an alleged conspiracy to blow up an American school and a hotel in Amman. He convinced the European court to prevent his deportation by arguing that he would face an unfair trial with evidence obtained by torture against him.
He claimed asylum in the UK 20 years ago but was convicted in 1999 in Jordan and sentenced to life in prison. Human rights laws to avoid deportation in the case of Qatada was originally rejected in the UK but upheld by European judges. He is currently in custody in Belmarsh Prison after being arrested in March for allegedly breaking his bail conditions.