TERRORIST suspect Abu Qatada yesterday lost his attempt to make a final appeal to Europe’s human rights judges to block his deportation to Jordan.
But deportation may still take several months, with the cleric’s lawyers immediately applying for him to be released on bail.
The European ruling represented a narrow escape for Home Secretary Theresa May as, while they rejected the case, the panel of five judges also ruled that Qatada’s appeal on the night of April 17 was within the court’s deadline.
The decision 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, but the mistake will have no serious repercussions.
No reasons were given for the panel’s refusal to allow the case to be heard by the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg.
Lawyers for Qatada, described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, also applied to a senior immigration judge for a fresh bail hearing.
Mrs 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.”
Qatada, who is said to have wide and high-level support among extremists, was convicted in his absence in Jordan of involvement with terror attacks in 1998 and faces a retrial in his home country.
He also featured in hate sermons found on videos in the flat of one of the September 11 bombers.
Since 2001, when fears of the domestic terror threat rose in the aftermath of the attacks, he has challenged, and ultimately thwarted, every attempt by the Government to detain and deport him.