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European court refuses Abu Qatada appeal | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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PARIS (AP) — Europe’s highest appeals court on Wednesday refused to hear a challenge by the radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada against a British order that he be deported to Jordan.

The ruling clears the way for deportation proceedings against the Palestinian-Jordanian preacher, who has been described in both Spanish and British courts as a leading al-Qaida figure in Europe and who has fought attempts to expel him from the U.K. since 2001.

A panel of five judges rejected Abu Qatada’s bid to have his appeal heard by the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights, declaring that a January ruling by another court chamber is now final.

British authorities re-arrested Abu Qatada — whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman — last month to begin new deportation efforts, believing a legal deadline for him to take his case to the human rights court’s Grand Chamber had expired.

But in an embarrassment to the British government, Wednesday’s ruling said the U.K. had been mistaken and had detained the cleric 24 hours too early.

Britain’s Home Office said the country’s Special Immigration Appeals Commission, a court that handles deportation and national security cases, would now continue a new attempt to expel the cleric from the country.

The ministry said that while Abu Qatada’s lawyers will be able to appeal against his deportation to British courts, their options to take his case to European judges have effectively been exhausted.

That means Abu Qatada could be sent to Jordan within months — though officials declined to offer any timetable, mindful that efforts to remove the radical preacher have so far dragged since 2001.