UK & World News
Abu Qatada's European Court Appeal Move Fails
Jordanian terror suspect Abu Qatada has lost an attempt to appeal against deportation heard by Europe's top human rights judges.
The ruling clears the way for UK deportation proceedings against the radical cleric, described by a judge as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, to continue.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: "I am pleased by the European court's decision. The Qatada case will now go through the British courts."
A panel of five judges rejected Qatada's bid to have his appeal heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights.
However the panel ruled his application was made in time, according to a spokesman for the Council of Europe, which runs the court.
Qatada lodged a last-minute appeal to the court on April 17, claiming he faced the threat of torture in Jordan.
But Mrs May has rejected the claim and said: "I am confident the assurances we have from Jordan mean we can put Abu Qatada on a plane and get him out of Britain."
Sky's home affairs correspondent, Mark White said: "This decision out of Strasbourg will come as a huge relief for Theresa May, who has taken personal charge of the efforts to deport Abu Qatada.
"A decision to allow this appeal to go to the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights would have been the worst possible scenario for the British government.
"It would have thrown the whole issue wide open again and resulted in another protracted appeal process which would likely have spanned many months, perhaps years."
The cleric's legal move came hours after the Home Secretary started attempts to have Qatada deported from Britain by late April.
She came under intense political pressure over claims the Home Office had miscalculated the appeal deadline date.
But the decision by the panel of five judges means Mrs May was wrong when she claimed the three-month appeal deadline from the court's original decision on January 17 expired on the night of April 16.
Qatada's lawyers lodged his appeal late on the night of April 17, which the judges ruled was in time.
A spokesman for the court 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."
Mrs May is now likely to reject any application by Qatada's lawyers to revoke his deportation order - meaning he could be on a plane within weeks.
It is likely that Abu Qatada's lawyers will appeal again, but this time to the British courts.
If the Home Secretary also issues a certificate saying any application by Qatada to revoke the deportation order was "clearly unfounded", his lawyers would then possibly make an application to the High Court for a judicial review.
Qatada's lawyers, Birnberg Peirce, said: "On January 17, the European Court of Human Rights prohibited [Qatada's] removal to a country that conducts trials in military courts on the basis of evidence obtained by torturing civilian defendants and witnesses.
"The political situation in Jordan has worsened in the three and a half months that have followed; reports of the torture of civilians in secret sites have increased."
A review could be decided "in a very few weeks", according to a source.
But if not, Qatada's legal team could appeal against her decision not to revoke the deportation order to a senior immigration judge at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission and the process could still take "many months".
His lawyers added: "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 [Qatada] 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.
"We trust that the courts here will see the claims made by the Secretary of State in their true light, an attempt to circumvent the binding decision of the European Court on facts that have not changed, despite desperate attempts toinsist otherwise."
Sky's Mark White said: "The European Court of Human Rights has already ruled it is happy with the so called 'memorandum of understanding' between the UK and Jordan, which promises not to torture Qatada.
"The cleric's lawyers believe they have a potential avenue of appeal on this issue, claiming much has changed in Jordan in the last few years since that ECHR decision."