Abu Qatada deportation appeal rejected by human rights court
Decision by European court of human rights lifts the legal block on home secretary's attempts to deport cleric to Jordan
The home secretary, Theresa May, is to make a renewed attempt to deport Abu Qatada after judges at the European court of human rights rejected his appeal to the Strasbourg court.
May said: "I am pleased by the European court's decision. 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."
A panel of five human rights judges ruled that the radical Islamist cleric's lawyers, and not May, were right to claim that his appeal against deportation, lodged at 11.13pm on Tuesday 17 April, had been made within the three-month time limit.
But his appeal to the grand chamber that there was a risk he would be tortured if he was sent back to Jordan was rejected without any reasons being specified. Appeals are normally rejected if they do not raise a sufficiently serious new issue or legal question.
The decision on his appeal lifts the legal block on the home secretary's attempts to deport Qatada to Jordan to face trial on terrorist conspiracy charges.
The home secretary will consider one option for "short-circuiting" lengthy appeals in the British courts against his deportation. If she considers that the al-Qaida-linked cleric's case is "manifestly unfounded", she could issue a certificate limiting his appeals to a single high court challenge.
Mr Justice Mitting, who last month revoked Qatada's bail pending the outcome of Wednesday's Strasbourg hearing, said this could bring the matter to a rapid end "within a matter of weeks". The high court hearing will test the legality of undertakings given by the Jordanian government that Qatada will not face a trial on his return based on evidence obtained by torture.
The last-minute appeal by Qatada's lawyers sparked a furious row as it halted the deportation less than 24 hours after the home secretary had ordered his arrest pending his removal. May insisted the deadline for appeals had lapsed the previous day at midnight on Monday 16 April – three months after the initial ruling in the case.
The ECHR spokesman said: "The panel found that the request had been submitted within the three-month time limit for such requests. However, it considered that the request should be refused.
"Accordingly, the hamber's judgment of 17 January 2012 is now final. Once a judgment becomes final, it is transmitted to the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe for supervision of its implementation."
Amnesty International expressed its disappointment at the decision, arguing that it would put him at a real risk of torture and of receiving an unfair trial tainted by torture.
Amnesty's UK director, Kate Allen said: "This is a disappointing decision and a missed opportunity. The grand chamber would have been the right body to examine this appeal because it raises fundamental issues about whether 'deportation deals' with countries which routinely use torture should ever be relied on."
Tory MP Dominic Raab said: "This decision puts Qatada's deportation back under UK control.
"Once the British courts approve the revived deportation application, which ought to happen in the next few weeks, Qatada will presumably try a third appeal to Strasbourg.
"At that point, the government cannot legally be prevented from deporting him, so he should be put straight on a plane to Jordan.
"It would pervert the rule of law to allow him to sit out a third Strasbourg appeal, which could take months, on British soil and at taxpayers' expense."
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