Abu Qatada European Court appeal rejected

Abu Qatada Image copyright AFP
Image caption Abu Qatada lodged an appeal on 17 April

Radical cleric Abu Qatada has lost his attempt to make a final appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against his deportation from the UK.

The court said a panel of judges of the Grand Chamber found the appeal had arrived in time - but refused it.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she was confident Abu Qatada would soon be "out of Britain for good".

The preacher says he faces possible torture in Jordan if he is deported from the UK.

The decision is a victory for the government's deportation strategy, even though Home Office officials got the date of the appeal deadline wrong.

In a statement, the court said Abu Qatada's appeal had arrived approximately 45 minutes before the deadline on Tuesday 17 April.

"The Panel found that the request had been submitted within the three month time-limit for such requests," said the court. "However, it considered that the request should be refused.

"Accordingly, the Chamber's judgment of 17 January 2012 is now final."

The European Court's January judgement said the UK government had received satisfactory assurances from Jordan that the preacher would not face torture if returned.

But it said he should not be deported until there was a further assurance his expected retrial on terrorism offences would not include evidence obtained by torture of others.

The decision brought the preacher's deportation to a halt - but the government says it has negotiated a deal with Jordan to ensure a fair trial.

Home Secretary Theresa May said: "It has always been the government's intention that the Qatada case should be heard in the British courts, so I am pleased by the European Court's decision today.

"I remain confident that the assurances I have secured from the Jordanian Government mean we will be able to put Qatada on a plane and get him out of Britain for good.

"His case will now go through the British courts, and in the meantime, because of the action taken by the government, Qatada remains behind bars."

But in a statement, Abu Qatada's lawyers Birnberg Peirce said: "The political situation in Jordan has worsened in the three and a half months that have followed [the European Court judgement]. Reports of the torture of civilians in secret sites have increased. The military courts are continuing just as before; the instability of the regime is greater.

"When the Secretary of State elected to rush to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission three weeks ago, claiming that all of the ills prohibiting deportation had been cured in Jordan and that Mr Othman could be immediately deported, with the intention it seems of achieving a contrived political spectacle, she did so on a basis that was wrong factually as well as legally."

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "It is shocking that the Court has confirmed the home secretary got the date wrong, and took an unacceptable risk with this serious case. Theresa May was adamant in the House of Commons that she got the date of appeal right even though she had been warned by the court and by the media.

"We are all very lucky that the home secretary's major mistake has not led to Qatada's application for appeal being granted. Now is the time for Theresa May to apologise."

Deportation date unclear

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Media captionCommunities Secretary Eric Pickles: "The really important thing is that soon Mr Qatada will be leaving this country"

It's not clear how long the deportation will now take but lawyers for the home secretary have already raised the prospect she can use a special procedure to accelerate the process by declaring the preacher no longer has any human rights grounds left to argue.

Abu Qatada, who is held in a maximum security prison, has applied for bail but no date has been set for a hearing. He may seek to argue the new Jordanian assurance on a fair trial has not been tested in the British courts. The Law Lords had previously ruled that Jordan could give him a fair trial.

Kate Allen, of Amnesty International, said the British courts now needed to have a "cold, hard look" at Jordan's record on torture.

"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.

"Jordan has a known record of torturing detainees and conducting unfair trials. The simple truth is that Abu Qatada will be at personal risk of torture and of receiving an unfair trial in Jordan's State Security Court.

"No matter what a person has been accused of, the UK must abide by the absolute global prohibition on torture and not try to wriggle out of it."

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