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Home Office keeps quiet over Qatada

The Home Office has refused to confirm or deny reports that radical cleric Abu Qatada is set to finally leave the country on Sunday.

Jordanian officials have been quoted as saying they expect the terror suspect to leave Britain in the early hours.

If he was to leave on Sunday, it would mark the end of a near 10-year battle to eject the controversial preacher from the country, which has cost the taxpayer more than £1.7 million.

The reports come after the Jordanian government published a treaty designed to trigger Qatada's deportation in its official gazette, leaving just a handful of legal steps before it is brought into law.

Qatada previously volunteered to leave his taxpayer-funded home in Britain for Jordan - with his family in tow - as soon as the treaty is ratified by both countries. The agreement aims to allay fears that evidence extracted through torture will be used against him in Jordan at a retrial.

A Home Office spokeswoman would not comment on the reports, but added: "Our focus is on seeing Abu Qatada on a plane to Jordan at the earliest opportunity."

The Government has been trying to deport Qatada to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999, for about eight years. The publication of the treaty in the gazette comes after both houses of the Jordanian parliament and the country's king approved the treaty, while the UK parliamentary scrutiny process has also completed.

However, Home Secretary Theresa May previously warned that, even when the treaty is fully ratified, it will not necessarily mean that Qatada will be on a plane to Jordan within days. The case remains open to legal challenge.

Qatada is behind bars in London's Belmarsh prison after breaching a bail condition which restricts use of mobile phones and other communication devices.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) previously heard that a USB stick understood to belong to Qatada's eldest son contained ''jihadist files'' made by the ''media wing of al Qaida''. The terror suspect is also being investigated by Scotland Yard over suspected extremist material found during the search of his home.


From Belfast Telegraph