Government vows to 'vigorously' resist any Qatada bail application

Qatada could be back on British streets within two or three weeks if bail is allowed
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The government will 'vigorously' resist any application for bail by lawyers for the radical cleric Abu Qatada, Downing Street said today.

The statement comes after confusion caused by Abu Qatada's appeal against his deportation.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, is at the centre of a political storm after confusion over whether the appeal should have been allowed or not.

May has stated repeatedly that she believes the appeal should not have been allowed by the European Court of Human Rights as the three month appeal deadline had passed.

Labour has, however, released advice from the Council of Europe, which is responsible for the court, indicating that the appeal was narrowly within the allowed timescale.

Due to confusion over whether the appeal should have been allowed or not, and because the risk of Qatada absconding is considered to have increased, he has been returned to jail pending 'imminent' deportation.

However, yesterday Mr Justice Mitting, the British special immigration appeals commission judge, indicated in his written judgement that should deportation not be imminent he would reconsider bail.

This would mean Qatada being back on British streets within two or three weeks.

There was more embarrassment and confusion for the government yesterday after a note emerged indicating that Qatada's lawyers appeal timings were correct.

It was signed by Nathalie Chene of the Secretariat of the Committee of Ministers Council of Europe, and stresses that the decision on whether the appeal is legitimate now rests with a panel of judges from the court's Grand Chamber.

“The Othman (Qatada) case was supposed to become final on 17/04/2012 and, according to the information provided by the European Court, the applicant requested a referral to the Grand Chamber on the 17/04,” the note said.

"So I would say that it just in time but of course the Court (panel) may decide otherwise."

Yvette Cooper the Shadow Home Secretary yesterday criticised Theresa May's handling of the case urging her to 'get a grip' and describing the situation as 'farcical' and 'chaotic'.

Downing Street said today the Government would resist any application for bail by Qatada.

“If he applies for bail, we will oppose it vigorously,” a No 10 spokeswoman said.

Asked if the Prime Minister still had full confidence in Mrs May, the spokeswoman replied: “Yes.”

She added: “It is our firm intention to see him deported.”