, CAIRO, July 6 -Britain is expected to fly radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan on Sunday to face terror charges, ending a decade long legal battle over the fate of the man once dubbed Osama bin Laden’s right-hand-man in Europe.
London is deporting the 53-year-old Palestinian-born cleric after the two governments last month formally approved a treaty guaranteeing that evidence obtained by torture would not be used against him in any trial.
Prime Minister David Cameron has said he will be “one of the happiest people in Britain” after the departure of Abu Qatada, who has been in and out of British prisons while successive British governments have tried to expel him.
British officials refused to confirm any details, but local media reported he would be driven from the high security Belmarsh jail in south London and flown out at 2:00 am (0100 GMT) Sunday from RAF Northolt airbase in west London.
His wife and five children are expected to remain in Britain, where he first came in 1993 seeking asylum.
A Jordanian official told AFP earlier this week that Abu Qatada was expected to leave Britain “in the early hours of Sunday” and arrive later that morning in Jordan.
“He will arrive in Jordan on a military plane, escorted by Jordanian and British guards,” the official said.
The burly, beaded Abu Qatada has been fighting extradition to Jordan for years in British and European courts alike, but his lawyers unexpectedly said in May that he would return there once the fair trial treaty was ratified by the Jordanian parliament.
But officials will be wary of any further last ditch legal attempts to stay on British soil. A British Home Office spokeswoman said: “Our focus is on seeing Abu Qatada on a plane to Jordan at the earliest opportunity.”
Born Omar Mahmud Mohammed Otman in Bethlehem in the now Israeli occupied West Bank, Abu Qatada is a Jordanian national because the town was part of Jordan when he was born.
He was condemned to death in 1999 for conspiracy to carry out terror attacks including on the American school in Amman but the sentence was immediately reduced to life imprisonment with hard labour.