UK wins round in Qatada deportation battle

The European Court of Human Rights has decided not intervene again to stop Britain from deporting Abu Qatada.

Story highlights

  • The European Court of Human Rights rejects Abu Qatada's deportation appeal
  • Britain wants to send him to Jordan to face trial
  • The court blocked an earlier effort to deport him over torture concerns
  • Britain says Qatada raises money for terrorists; he denies it
The European Court of Human Rights will not intervene again to stop Britain from deporting Abu Qatada, whom the British accuse of being a terrorist fundraiser and an inspiration to one of the hijackers on September 11, 2001, the court said Wednesday.
Britain has been trying for years to deport him to Jordan, but his legal appeals have kept him in the United Kingdom.
The European Court blocked Britain from sending him to Jordan in January because of fears that evidence obtained by torture could be used against him in the trial the Middle Eastern country plans.
Britain then launched a round of negotiations with Jordan in order to deal with the European court's concerns and arrested Qatada again on April 17.
British Home Secretary Theresa May announced that her country was starting a fresh effort to deport him, but Qatada's lawyers cried foul, saying he was filing a new appeal.
That started a round of accusations and counter-accusations about whether the appeal had been filed in time, with the British government saying it was too late and Qatada's lawyer saying it was not.
The European Court ruled Wednesday that the appeal had been filed in time but rejected the appeal.
Qatada can still go to British courts to appeal against deportation, May said Wednesday as she welcomed the European court ruling.
"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," May said in a statement. "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."
Jordan earlier convicted Qatada in absentia of terror-related offenses but will quash that conviction and retry him, May said in April.
Qatada will be tried in public before civilian judges, she told British lawmakers at that time.
"The assurances and information that the government has secured from Jordan mean that we can undertake deportation in full compliance with the law and with the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights," May said in a statement to the House of Commons.
"Deportation might still take time -- the proper processes must be followed and the rule of law must take precedence -- but today Qatada has been arrested and the deportation process is under way."
Jordanian Justice Minister Ibrahim Aljazy had said after Britain announced the arrest that Jordan would detain Qatada and give him a full trial when he arrived in the country.
Qatada was released on bail from a high-security prison in February.
He had been imprisoned in Britain for six years while the government worked to send him to Jordan, where he holds citizenship.
The British government claims Qatada has raised money for terrorist groups, including organizations linked to former al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden, and has publicly supported the violent activities of those groups.
Qatada has denied the allegations against him.
Also known as Omar Othman, Qatada arrived in the United Kingdom in 1993 and applied for asylum on the grounds that he had been tortured by Jordanian authorities. He came to Britain on a forged United Arab Emirates passport, according to court documents, and claimed asylum for himself, his wife and their three children.
The British government recognized him as a refugee and allowed him to stay in the country until 1998.
Qatada applied to stay indefinitely, but while his application was pending, a Jordanian court convicted him in absentia on charges related to two 1998 terrorist attacks and a plot to plant bombs to coincide with the millennium.
He was taken into custody but was released briefly in 2005 after the repeal of the anti-terrorism law on which he was being held. Later that year, British authorities ordered his renewed detention under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, according to the European Court of Human Rights.