As it happened: Abu Qatada flown from UK to Jordan

Key Points

  • Radical Islamist preacher Abu Qatada has been deported from the UK after a lengthy legal battle costing the UK more than £1.7m ($2.5m)
  • His plane took off from RAF Northolt in west London at 02:45 BST and has arrived in Jordan, where he has reportedly been charged with terrorism and detained.
  • Home Secretary Theresa May says she is delighted at the deportation and adds the government will change the rules to restrict the appeals process.

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    Good morning and welcome to our coverage of the deportation of Muslim cleric Abu Qatada.


    His departure at 02:45 BST brings to an end years of legal wrangling over his deportation. The 53-year-old was put a private jet at RAF Northolt after being driven there in a police convoy from Belmarsh Prison in south London.

    Abu Qatada boarding plane

    This is the moment Abu Qatada walked up the steps to the plane.


    Minutes after the plane took off, Home Secretary Theresa May issued a statement saying the deportation "marks the conclusion of efforts to remove him since 2001 and I believe this will be welcomed by the British public".


    Mrs May added: "I am glad that this government's determination to see him on a plane has been vindicated and that we have at last achieved what previous governments, Parliament and the British public have long called for."


    So who is Abu Qatada and why has he proved such a thorn in the side of the UK government?. BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani, who was at RAF Northolt when the plane departed, has written this profile of the Palestinian-born, Jordanian preacher.


    The deportation came after the UK and Jordan ratified a treaty on torture aimed at easing human rights concerns that had blocked previous attempts to deport Abu Qatada. As the plane made its way to Amman, the Jordanian government issued a statement in which it said it sought "credibility and transparency" in dealing with the case.


    Jordanian officials said they expected Abu Qatada to arrive in Amman at about 08:00 BST. He will be handed over to military prosecutors and appear in court to face terrorism charges.


    The BBC's Steve Swann visited Jordan earlier this year and examines the background to the trial in this story. "Abu Qatada's family nervously await his return after two decades of exile," he writes.

    Convoy of police vehicles

    Abu Qatada left Belmarsh prison in south-east London just after midnight in a convoy of police vehicles.

    Moody Alam

    tweets: Woke up to a happy news! Abu Qatada deported from Britain


    The deportation is widely covered in Sunday's newspapers. The Sunday Telegraph calls it "a personal triumph" for Theresa May and puts the delay down to a "legal farce" flowing from "an unreasonable interpretation of the meaning of 'human rights'." The People admits it rarely gives a Tory home secretary "a pat on the back" but it thinks Mrs May pursued her goal with "sheer bloody-mindedness".

    Ahmad Bajalan, Hull

    emails: Religious fascists should not find safe haven in democratic free countries. We of Middle Eastern origin who have settled and wish to adapt to the way of life in the UK suffer because of their behaviour. We are tarred by their aggressive intolerant ideologies. So good riddance to Abu Qatada.

    David Griffiths

    tweets: Abu Qatada deported, but it's so unhelpful that May cast human rights so negatively throughout the process

    Breaking News Prime Minister David Cameron

    tweets: Deporting Abu Qatada was a priority for this govt, there was a clear plan+a right and stubborn refusal to bow to what many thought inevitable


    BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins says the deportation is something Home Secretary Theresa May has "long wanted". Attempts to send Abu Qatada to Jordan started when Tony Blair was Prime Minister, he adds.

    Abu Qatada looking out of a plane window

    Abu Qatada got a last look at the UK from the window of the plane, which took off from RAF Northolt at 02:45 BST.


    The treaty which made the deportation possible is seen as "something of an oddity" by some in the UK, says BBC Middle East analyst Nicholas Wade. It was signed specifically to deport Abu Qatada, he says, but Jordanian authorities emphasise that it would allow deportations in both directions and is seen as a sign of "mutual respect" between the countries.


    Labour MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, says: "Only 446 days after the home secretary said Abu Qatada would be on a plane shortly, he has finally reached the end of the runway.


    Mr Vaz goes on: "In the end, it was the king of Jordan who secured his departure by agreeing to this treaty. The home secretary's legal advisers will have questions to answer as to why they didn't conceive of this scheme earlier which would have prevented a cost to the taxpayer of £1.7m."


    Home Secretary Theresa May tells the BBC she is delighted at the deportation and she has been "as frustrated as the public" that the process has taken more than a decade.


    Mrs May says the government will change the rules to ensure there are "fewer appeals processes in future".


    The home secretary says the UK has "got to look at that relationship" with the European Court of Human Rights, which said Abu Qatada could not be deported to Jordan because evidence obtained under torture would be used against him. Mrs May says "nothing should be off the table" in the debate over the court.


    Mrs May says she has no concerns over the treatment Abu Qatada will receive in Jordan, which she says is ensured by the treaty signed by UK and Jordanian authorities.


    BBC home affairs correspondent Dominic Casciani, outside the Home Office, says: "Officials here are incredibly relieved after one of the most tense weeks in the department's recent history. They were so concerned about the possibility that the cleric could change his mind at the last minute that they were leaving nothing to chance."


    Our correspondent adds: "Senior officials and the Security Minister James Brokenshire, who has been at the Home Office overnight, were monitoring the deportation minute by minute. It was only when Abu Qatada finally got on the plane that they knew the long saga had finally come to an end."

    Alastair Stewart, ITV newscaster

    tweets: #qatada #Releases One suspects Mr Qatada will not get the same reception, in Jordan, as Mr Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi got in Libya.

    Neil Richardson, Greenford

    emails: Whilst it is a relief to see him depart, it is also right that he was allowed to use existing appeals procedures to delay it. We must treat people properly, according to our laws, even if they are dangerous.


    Abu Qatada's destination in Jordan is the "country's most comfortable jail", according to the Telegraph. He is heading for Muwaqqer prison, a newly built facility complete with volleyball and basketball courts and a visitors' garden which includes a fountain, the newspaper claims.

    Imran Awan, Birningham City University

    tweets: Lets hope Jordan gives #Qatada a fair trial for the crimes he has committed! There record on human rights is not brilliant!!!

    David, Chatteris, Cambridgeshire

    emails: Thank goodness this dreadful man has finally gone, long overdue. He and those like him are a disgrace to what is a decent, tolerant and inclusive religion.

    Dale Wright, Derbyshire

    emails: If people like Qatada disrespect our country, values, etc, then why should they be allowed to exhaust every avenue against deportation? He clearly didn't want to be here, otherwise he would have held his tongue.

    0804: Breaking News

    Abu Qatada has arrived in Jordan, AP and AFP news agencies quote officials as saying


    Keith Best, chief executive of the charity Freedom from Torture and former Conservative MP, says Abu Qatada "hadn't exhausted all his appeal rights" but chose to leave because of the treaty ensuring he will not be prosecuted using evidence "tainted by torture".


    Yvette Cooper, Labour's shadow home secretary, says: "This is extremely welcome - it means Abu Qatada can stand fair trial in Jordan for the serious terrorism charges he faces there, so justice can be done."


    Echoing comments made by the home secretary earlier, Ms Cooper says: "We must ensure that delays like this do not last for so long in future and that the system is reformed to make it faster."


    Ms Cooper adds: "The government has done the right thing by continuing to pursue this until Abu Qatada could finally be deported. The home secretary has been right to get further guarantees from Jordan and we should welcome the series of agreements from the Jordanian government too."

    The inside of a private jet, with plush cream-coloured seats

    A Google search reveals a publicity image of the inside of the private plane used to fly Abu Qatada to Jordan.


    Prime Minister David Cameron says he is "absolutely delighted" and says the deportation battle had made his "blood boil". He adds: "This is something this government said it would get done and we have got it done."


    A family friend of Abu Qatada who went with his relatives to meet him at the Marka military airport says the cleric was taken straight to the State Security Court, according to BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell. This suggests legal proceedings against him may have begun already, our correspondent says.

    0843: Prime Minister David Cameron

    tweets: Abu Qatada is back in Jordan. This is something the Government said would get done. It's now been achieved and I am delighted.


    Mr Cameron says he wants to make it easier to deport people who "threaten" the UK, but says there are "limits to what we can do as a coalition government".

    Nigel Fletcher, @oppositionuk

    Congratulations to Theresa May and @ukhomeoffice on #Qatada, and spare some praise too for HM Ambassador @PeterMillett1 -he's been busy


    BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell says the cleric's family did not get to see him at the airport, but they spoke to prosecutors.

    Philip Witham

    tweets: Morning - waking up to the news #Qatada is out of the #UK - the legal system made a furtune out of him & the rules are going to be changed

    Jeffrey Johnson, Chelmsford

    emails: Keith Vaz's comment is very weak and disappointing and does him no credit. Theresa May has shown she is a tough, determined, honest, hardworking and effective Home Secretary for which we should be thankful.


    Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Phil Collins, a former speechwriter for Tony Blair, says there is "no question this is a really good moment for the government". But he says it's a "bit unfair" to say the coalition government has succeeded where Labour failed because the "process is horrendously long and complex and this is the culmination of it".

    Dourleyn, Somerset

    emails: If one calls this a "victory" where a terrorist is flown in luxury by private plane leaving behind a wife and 5 children to be paid for by the taxpayers than Theresa May and other politicians are not fit to represent us.


    Jordanian authorities confirm legal proceedings against Abu Qatada started immediately after his arrival. The BBC understands the State Security Court's first decision will be whether to grant bail or remand the cleric in custody. He faces a retrial on terrorist charges in Jordan, having been convicted in his absence in 1999 and 2000.


    Dr Mohammed Al-Momani, Jordan's minister of state for media affairs, says the trial will be conducted in accordance with Jordanian law and international human rights rules. The court will be free from outside influence, including government interference, he says.


    BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell says there was "tight security" at Amman's Marka military airbase for Abu Qatada's arrival - the first time he has set foot in Jordan in more than 20 years.


    The Jordanian authorities are promising "credibility and transparency", our correspondent says. Abu Qatada is to be tried before a panel of civilian judges with a Jordanian human rights group monitoring his treatment.


    Speaking on the Andrew Marr Show, Home Secretary Theresa May says an immigration bill to be put forward later this year will include a reduction in the number of appeals people can make against deportation decisions.

    Sylvia Tetteh, Manchester, UK

    emails: About time too. I have made this country my home and feel so incensed when people like Qatada and many others can incite so much hatred to people who have allowed them to live among them and to make it worse if they are reliant on public funds in any way shape or form. "One does not bite the hand that feeds one".


    Mrs May says the main lesson of the deportation battle has been: "When you want to achieve something just keep at it." She says the other key lessons for the UK are to change the way deportation appeal processes work and to review the relationship with the European Court of Human Rights.


    Mrs May says she is determined to scrap the Human Rights Act. She also says "nothing should be off the table" in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights, and that her Party will consider this and set out a plan before the next election.

    John Bristow, Chigwell

    emails: Like everyone else I'm delighted he's gone but does anyone know what will happen to his family. Do they go or do they stay?

    A private plane on the tarmac of an airport in Jordan

    Abu Qatada was taken "very quickly" to the State Security Court after arriving in Jordan, BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell says. He is accused of being a "spiritual adviser" involved in two terrorist plots, our correspondent adds.


    The Liberal Democrats "simply would not allow" the UK to end its relationship with the European Court of Human Rights while they are in government, according to BBC political correspondent Ross Hawkins. But he says David Cameron may try to include such a move in the Conservative manifesto for the next election.

    Abu Qatada walks away from a private jet at an airport in Jordan

    Four British police officers went with Abu Qatada to hand him over to Jordanian authorities, Scotland Yard says. The officers are now on their way back to the UK.

    Yolande Knell, BBC Middle East Correspondent

    tweets: We did an unofficial survey on an Amman street: q what do u think of deportation of #abuqatada - 90% of people replied "who's he?"


    Theresa May has not said what will happen to Abu Qatada's family in the UK. Asked on Sky News whether they have a right to remain, Mrs May says they have to make decisions themselves about what they want their future to be. She says the government will have decisions to make in due course.

    Colin Withers, Bishops Stortford

    emails: If Abu Qatada is found not guilty in Jordan after his new trial, could he return to the UK?


    Abu Qatada has now been in court for about two hours. A decision on whether he will be bailed or remanded in custody is expected soon, BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell says.

    Name withheld, West Midlands

    emails: (in response to Sylvia Tetteh, 1013) I admire Sylvia Tetteh's comment and admire her for posting it. I am white British-born and Sylvia's comment shows we can all live in harmony regardless of colour, race or creed. The UK is a multi-racial society and I feel that enriches us all.

    A convoy of cars carrying Abu Qatada drives along a road in Jordan

    A 12-car convoy, including masked anti-terrorism police took Abu Qatada to court as soon as he arrived in Amman, Jordan. The Associated Press news agency says the cleric's father, Mahmoud, who stood at the entrance of the court building but was not allowed to enter, said: "I have nothing to say, except that my son is innocent and I hope the court will set him free."

    Family members of Abu Qatada waiting outside a court building

    Members of Abu Qatada's family are waiting outside the State Security Court in Amman. The hearing taking place inside is expected to decide on whether he will be released on bail or held in prison.


    Abu Qatada has been formally charged with terrorism, according to Agence France-Presse.

    Matt, Wakefield

    emails: I'd like to think the deportation of Abu Qatada is a victory for the UK but in the end he left because he wanted to, he could have dragged it out longer but he didn't. I feel he had the last laugh.


    A family friend of Abu Qatada says he has left court and has been taken to Muwaqqer prison in the desert outside Amman, according to BBC Middle East correspondent Yolande Knell. Relatives say they expect a bail hearing next week and hope the cleric will be freed then, our correspondent says.


    Abu Qatada has pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges, according to Agence France-Presse. The news agency also quotes a Jordanian court official who says the cleric has been remanded in custody. No reporters were allowed in the courtroom during the hearing.


    To recap what has happened so far. Abu Qatada left the UK from RAF Northolt at 02:45 BST, flew to Jordan, appeared in court in Amman and was remanded in custody. Jordanian authorities have pledged to give him a fair trial, but the date of this has not yet been confirmed.


    That concludes our live coverage of Abu Qatada's deportation. You can follow the latest developments on the BBC News Channel and here on the BBC website.


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