The Prime Minister has declared himself “completely fed up” with Abu Qatada as the radical cleric arrived home amid angry protests.
The controversial preacher, 52, looked relaxed and happy as he was driven away from Long Lartin high security jail in acute contrast to outrage at both local and national level.
As Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg vowed “we are absolutely determined to see this man get on a plane and go back to Jordan”, experts warned it could be months, even years before he leaves British soil.
Speaking during a visit to Italy, David Cameron said: “I am completely fed up with the fact that this man is still at large in our country. He has no right to be there, we believe he is a threat to our country.
”We have moved heaven and earth to try to comply with every single dot and comma of every single convention to get him out of our country. It is extremely frustrating and I share the British people's frustration with the situation we find ourselves in.“
Yesterday the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) ruled that it was not satisfied with assurances that evidence from witnesses who had been tortured would not be included in a retrial in his homeland and granted Qatada’s appeal, stating the Home Secretary was wrong not to revoke a deportation order.
The Government’s response is likely to be two-pronged. Theresa May has already stated that they will appeal on a matter of law. Meanwhile diplomatic efforts will undoubtedly be doubled to seek further assurances from the Jordanians.
Either option is expected to take time with any appeal unlikely before next year. The Home Secretary has three weeks to apply for permission for the matter to go before the Court of Appeal. If a single judge considering written submissions refuses the application, the Home Office can request an oral hearing before three appeal court judges.
A second option will be to make representations to the Jordanians after Siac said a key sticking point was an ambiguity in the country’s code of conduct, which led to the “real risk” that statement statements procured by torture would be admitted in a retrial.
Home affairs committee chairman Keith Vaz said that Jordan's King Abdullah II’s visit to the UK next week would offer an opportunity to “try and persuade him to go that little bit further in terms of the way the criminal code of Jordan operates”.
Qatada, once described as Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, has been fighting deportation to his native Jordan for seven years after being convicted in his absence of involvement in terror attacks. He would face a retrial if returned.
In January judges at the European Court of Human Rights ruled that he could be sent back to Jordan with diplomatic assurances but he could not be deported while ”there remains a real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him“.
Today David Anderson QC, the Independent Reviewer of Terrorism Legislation, said the solution lay with the Jordanians.
”What the judge said, what the court said in terms, was that a simple amendment to the Jordanian criminal code so as to remove an ambiguity that is in it at the moment ought to suffice to make deportation possible,“ he told the BBC.
Jordanian government minister Nayef al-Fayez said: ”It is our tentative understanding that there will be an appeal from the British Government and accordingly we will be co-ordinating closely with them to see what are the next steps to be taken.“
Human rights expert Julian Knowles warned there was a long legal route ahead: ”If Abu Qatada is the loser at the end of the domestic phase, he can then go back to the European Court.”
Meanwhile Qatada remains a free man, albeit living under strict bail conditions which will included a 16-hour curfew, the wearing of an electronic tag as well as a ban on using the internet or contacting certain people.
Today he returned home to protesters brandishing banners proclaiming “Get him out!” .
Local Jackie Chaunt, 50, said: “He shouldn't be here. He was supposed to be deported to Jordan. It's a disgrace.”