The European Court of Human Rights said it had receieved a last-minute appeal from lawyers representing radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada, promising to delay UK efforts to deport the radical Muslim preacher as soon as possible and “get him out of our country for good” as promised by Britain’s home secretary on Tuesday.
Home secretary Theresa May said that she was “absolutely” sure the appeal deadline had passed when she informed lawmakers on Tuesday of Qatada’s impending deportation back to Jordan, where he is to face terror charges.
Europe’s rights court in January banned Qatada’s extradition to Jordan over fears that evidence believed gained by torture would be used at his upcoming trial on terrorism charges.
The court today said Qatada’s representetives filed a last-minute request on Tuesday, which it said was before the deadline.
Qatada (legal name Omar Othman) has spent the last six years in legal wrangling over his deportation, a long-running case now seen as an important benchmark for Britain’s treatment of suspected extremist,.
The case involves the longest detainment in the history modern immigration, with Britain under pressure to resolve the politically-loaded case before London hosts the Olympic Games this summer.
Qatada, known as “Bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe,” had been kept under a 22-hour curfew in his north London house as part of extremely limiting bail conditions after a court ordered his release on grounds that he could not be held without trial.
British officials had hoped to deport him to Jordan “on or around April 30,”but the new appeal promises further delays.
A European Court of Human Rights spokesperson said that a decision will “take a few weeks” and the court’s earlier position will stand until then.
Qatada was convicted in absentia in Jordan over his alleged involvement in 1998 terror attacks, and his sermons were also discovered in the home of one of the accused September 11, 2001 bombers.
Here is a timeline of key events in his long-running battle against deportation:
? September 16 1993 – The Jordanian father of five, real name Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, claims asylum when he arrives in Britain on a forged passport.
? June 1994 – He is allowed to stay in Britain.
? March 1995 – Qatada issues a “fatwa” justifying the killing of converts from Islam, their wives and children in Algeria.
? May 1998 – He applies for indefinite leave to remain in Britain.
? April 1999 – He is convicted in his absence on terror charges in Jordan and sentenced to life imprisonment.
? October 1999 - The radical cleric speaks in London advocating the killing of Jews and praising attacks on Americans.
? February 2001 – He is arrested by anti-terror police over involvement in a plot to bomb Strasbourg Christmas market. Officers find him in possession of ?170,000 in cash, including ?805 in an envelope marked “For the mujahedin in Chechnya”.
? December 2001 – Qatada becomes one of Britain’s most wanted men after going on the run from his home in Acton, West London.
? October 2002 – He is arrested by police in a council house in south London and detained in Belmarsh high-security jail.
? March 2005 – He is freed on conditional bail and placed on a control order.
? August 2005 – The preacher is arrested under immigration rules as the Government seeks to deport him to Jordan.
? April 2008 – The Court of Appeal rules that deporting him would breach his human rights because evidence used against him in Jordan may have been obtained through torture.
? May 2008 - Qatada is granted bail by the immigration tribunal but told he must stay inside for 22 hours a day.
? June 2008 – He is released from Long Lartin jail in Worcestershire and moves in to a four bedroomed ?800,000 home in West London.
? November 2008 – He is rearrested after the Home Office tells an immigration hearing of fears he plans to abscond.
? December 2008 - Qatada’s bail is revoked by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) after hearing secret evidence that the risk of him absconding has increased.
? February 18 2009 – In a landmark judgment, five Law Lords unanimously back the Government’s policy of removing terror suspects from Britain on the basis of assurances from foreign governments. It is ruled he can be deported to Jordan to face terror charges.
? February 19 2009 - Qatada is awarded 2,800 euro (?2,500) compensation by the European Court of Human Rights after the judges rules that his detention without trial in the UK under anti-terrorism powers breached his human rights.
? January 2012 – European judges rule the firebrand cleric can be sent back to Jordan with diplomatic assurances but he cannot be deported while “there remains a real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him”.
? February 6 2012 – SIAC rules he can be released on bail, despite posing a risk to national security.
? February 9 2012 – David Cameron and King Abdullah of Jordan agree on the “importance of finding an effective resolution” to his case, Downing Street says.
? February 13 2012 – It emerges Qatada has been released on bail from Long Lartin prison.
? April 17 2012 – The cleric is arrested as the Government prepares to deport him to Jordan.