LONDON (AP) — Radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada was deported early Sunday from Britain to Jordan to face terror charges, ending over a decade-long battle to remove a man described as a key al-Qaida operative in Europe.
The move comes after Britain and Jordan ratified a treaty on torture aimed at easing human rights concerns that had blocked previous attempts to deport the Palestinian-born Jordanian preacher.
British Home Secretary Theresa May announced Abu Qatada's departure in a statement early Sunday, expressing confidence that the public in the U.K. would welcome the conclusion of efforts dating back to 2001 to remove the radical cleric.
"This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country," May said in a statement. The Home Office then posted a picture on Twitter of Abu Qatada climbing the steps of a plane.
Abu Qatada was wanted in Jordan for retrial in several terror cases in which he was sentenced in absentia. Britain had tried since 2001 to deport Abu Qatada — whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman — but courts have blocked extradition over concerns that evidence obtained under torture could be used against him.
After years of successfully fighting the numerous attempts to expel him from the U.K., the 53-year-old preacher recently indicated he would voluntarily return to Jordan if that country and Britain ratified a treaty on torture.
That treaty — which explicitly bans the use of evidence "where there are serious and credible allegations that a statement from a person has been obtained by torture or ill-treatment" — was ratified by Britain and Jordan last month.