Abu Qatada deportation: Cleric expected to be flown to Jordan overnight on military plane

Home Office prepares to fly radical preacher out of the country on military flight

Abu Qatada’s 20-year stay in the UK is finally about to come to an end, as the Home Office is understood to be preparing to deport the radical Islamist cleric on a military flight tonight.

The Government has been actively trying to remove Qatada for about eight years, and will succeed at 2am on Sunday morning when the 53-year-old is driven straight from Belmarsh Prison to RAF Northolt, west London.

On arrival in Jordan he will be taken to the maximum security Muwaqqar prison in a military zone near the capital Amman. It is understood his family will not be travelling with him.

The legal battle to deport Qatada has cost the taxpayer at least £1.7 million, including around £650,000 on his legal aid alone. The cleric, who originally sought asylum in the UK on the grounds that he had been tortured by Jordanian authorities, has fought a return to the Middle East on the grounds that he would not receive a fair trial.

That resistance ended two weeks ago when the UK and Jordan ratified a treaty ensuring evidence in a trial against Qatada would not be admissible if there were “serious and credible allegations that a statement from a person has been obtained by torture”.

A judge previously described Qatada as “Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe”, and the former head of counter-terrorism at Scotland Yard Bob Quick called him “a very dangerous man with significant influence”.

His use of EU law to avoid deportation has been used as an argument in favour of the UK withdrawing from the European Convention on Human Rights altogether. While living in a state-funded home along with his wife and five children, Qatada has committed no discernible crime beyond breaching bail conditions regarding mobile phone use, which landed him in Belmarsh.

Qatada's lawyer Edward Fitzgerald QC had previously told the Special Immigration Appeals Commission that his client, also known as Omar Othman, was prepared to leave if the treaty was enshrined in law.

"There's never been a time in the last 12 years that Mr Othman and his family could safely return to Jordan," he said. "For a long period of time, he has made it clear that he wishes to leave lawfully."

Immigration judges nonetheless refused to release the cleric from Belmarsh after they heard "jihadist files" were found on digital devices in his home.

A USB stick found in the home contained videos made by the "media wing of al-Qa'ida".

Qatada has been living in the UK since he arrived here on a forged passport in September 1993. Beyond the Home Office’s published legal expenditure it is difficult to estimate how much this has cost the taxpayer, and it is not known whether the cleric’s wife and family will continue to be supported by the state in their London home.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Solution Architect - Contract

£500 - £600 per day: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Solution Architect is requir...

360 Resourcing Solutions: Export Sales Coordinator

£18k - 20k per year: 360 Resourcing Solutions: ROLE: Export Sales Coordinato...

Recruitment Genius: B2B Telesales Executive - OTE £35,000+

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The largest developer of mobile...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

One day to find €1.6bn

Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

Historians map out untold LGBT histories

Public are being asked to help improve the map
Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

Lionel, Patti, Burt and The Who rock Glasto

This was the year of 24-carat Golden Oldies
Paris Fashion Week

Paris Fashion Week

Thom Browne's scarecrows offer a rare beacon in commercial offerings
A year of the caliphate:

Isis, a year of the caliphate

Who can defeat the so-called 'Islamic State' – and how?
Marks and Spencer: Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?

Marks and Spencer

Can a new team of designers put the spark back into the high-street brand?
'We haven't invaded France': Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak

'We haven't invaded France'

Italy's Prime Minister 'reclaims' Europe's highest peak
Isis in Kobani: Why we ignore the worst of the massacres

Why do we ignore the worst of the massacres?

The West’s determination not to offend its Sunni allies helps Isis and puts us all at risk, says Patrick Cockburn
7/7 bombings 10 years on: Four emergency workers who saved lives recall the shocking day that 52 people were killed

Remembering 7/7 ten years on

Four emergency workers recall their memories of that day – and reveal how it's affected them ever since
Humans: Are the scientists developing robots in danger of replicating the hit Channel 4 drama?

They’re here to help

We want robots to do our drudge work, and to look enough like us for comfort. But are the scientists developing artificial intelligence in danger of replicating the TV drama Humans?
Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

Time to lay these myths about the Deep South to rest

'Heritage' is a loaded word in the Dixie, but the Charleston killings show how dangerous it is to cling to a deadly past, says Rupert Cornwell
What exactly does 'one' mean? Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue

What exactly does 'one' mean?

Court of Appeal passes judgement on thorny mathematical issue