[JURIST] The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] on Wednesday declined to hear an appeal by Muslim cleric Abu Qatada [BBC profile] against his deportation from the UK to Jordan for terrorism charges. This appeal [JURIST report] was Abu Qatada’s final opportunity to block the deportation, and reports indicate the that UK government will shortly begin deportation proceedings [AP report] to remove him to Jordan. Qatada has been described as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe,” and UK officials believe he should be kept in prison for national security reasons. However, he has never formally been charged with an offense, and has been in and out of custody either in prison or some form of house arrest. In early February he was released on bail [JURIST report] after he made an application for bail following the ECHR block of his deportation.
Qatada was granted political asylum by the UK in 1994. When he was arrested in 2001 under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 1989, police seized a sizable sum of money in various currencies for which no explanation was given. Later in 2001, he went into hiding to avoid being arrested and detained under the then-proposed Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001. He was arrested again in 2002 and held until March 2005 when he was released pursuant to a House of Lords judgment declaring his detention without trial to be unlawful. In February 2009 the ECHR ordered the UK to pay £2,500 in damages [JURIST report] to Qatada after determining that his imprisonment violated the European Convention on Human Rights [materials]. Despite his previous grant of asylum and fears of torture and persecution, UK Law Lords in February 2009 ruled that Qatada could be returned [JURIST report] to Jordan to face terrorism charges. The February decision overruled an April 2008 Court of Appeal decision blocking his deportation [JURIST report].