LONDON (AP) — Radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada on Wednesday lost his bid to make a final appeal to the European Court of Human Rights against a British deportation order, effectively clearing the way for the U.K. to resume efforts to expel him to Jordan.
A European Court of Human Rights review panel refused to hear Abu Qatada's challenge, marking a milestone in the legal wrangling over the alleged senior al-Qaida figure and effectively exhausting his efforts to have European judges intervene in the case.
That means Abu Qatada could be sent to Jordan within months — though officials declined to offer any timetable — mindful that Britain's efforts to remove the radical preacher have dragged for more than a decade.
"It is clearly our intention still to deport this man," said a spokesman for Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron. He spoke on condition of anonymity in keeping with government policy.
The Palestinian-Jordanian preacher has been in detention since his arrest last month. His lawyers applied Wednesday for bail, though no date for that hearing has been set yet.
The ruling Wednesday by judges in Strasbourg clears the way for a fresh U.K. deportation hearing for Abu Qatada, who has been described in both Spanish and British courts as a leading al-Qaida figure in Europe, effectively handing the case back to British authorities.
Abu Qatada has fought attempts to expel him from the U.K. since 2001, alleging he would face torture in Jordan.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she remains confident that the new assurances from the Jordanian government that Abu Qatada would receive a fair trial mean that the U.K. will be able to put the cleric "on a plane and get him out of Britain for good."
Wednesday's decision was by the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights. The panel of five judges rejected Abu Qatada's bid to have his appeal heard, declaring that a January ruling by another court chamber is now final.
Abu Qatada's legal team was challenging the court's decision that the preacher could be sent back to Jordan with diplomatic assurances that he would not be mistreated and that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him. The cleric faces a terrorism trial in Jordan over two bomb plots.