Abu Qatada leaves Britain after a near decade-long battle

Abu Qatada leaves Britain after a near decade-long battle. Photo: Reuters

Abu Qatada has left Britain after a near decade-long battle to get him out of the country. The Home Secretary said that Qatada was deported to Jordan to face terrorism charges.

After spending at least £1.7 million on trying to eject the terror suspect from its shores, the Home Office finally saw him board a private flight bound for Jordan at RAF Northolt, in west London, at around 2.45am.

Theresa May said today:

His departure marks the conclusion of efforts to remove him since 2001 and I believe this will be welcomed by the British public.

I am glad that this government's determination to see him on a plane has been vindicated and that we have at last achieved what previous governments, Parliament and the British public have long called for.

This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country.

I am also clear that we need to make sense of our human rights laws and remove the many layers of appeals available to foreign nationals we want to deport. We are taking steps - including through the new Immigration Bill - to put this right.

Home Secretary Theresa May unveiled an agreement with Jordan earlier this year. Credit: Press Association

Following numerous courtroom battles, it was a treaty signed between the UK and Jordan that finally secured Qatada's departure, giving the radical preacher the assurances he needed to leave his taxpayer-funded home behind.

The agreement, announced by the Home Secretary earlier this year, aimed to allay fears that evidence extracted through torture will be used against the father of five at a retrial.

In a shock decision, Qatada pledged in May to leave Britain - with his family in tow - if and when the treaty was fully ratified, a process that to the relief of many, concluded earlier this week.

Theresa May signing treaty.

MP Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said:

Only 446 days after the Home Secretary said Abu Qatada would be on a plane shortly, he has finally reached the end of the runway.

In the end, it was the king of Jordan who secured his departure by agreeing to this treaty.

The Home Secretary's legal advisers will have questions to answer as to why they didn't conceive of this scheme earlier which would have prevented a cost to the taxpayer of £1.7 million.

Belmarsh Prison in London. Credit: LINDSEY PARNABY/PA Archive

Once dubbed Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, Qatada spent his final months in the UK in Belmarsh prison, after breaching a bail condition which restricted use of mobile phones and other communication devices.

The Government has been trying to deport him to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999, for about eight years.

But Qatada - who has praised the September 11 terror attacks - repeatedly used human rights laws to avoid removal.

This argument, originally rejected by British courts, was upheld by judges at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, forcing Mrs May to seek new legal guarantees from Jordan that his rights would not be breached.

A 24-page mutual legal assistance treaty was drawn up between the UK and Jordan, containing a key passage that states where there are "serious and credible allegations that a statement from a person has been obtained by torture" it will not be used in a court.

It was recently disclosed that the lengthy deportation fight has cost the taxpayer more than £1.7 million since 2005, including £647,658 for Qatada's legal aid costs and more than £1 million in Home Office costs for pursuing the case through the courts.

When Qatada returns to Jordan, it has been reported that he will be taken to the maximum security Muwaqqar prison in a military zone near the capital Amman.