UK government insists Abu Qatada appeal 'too late'
Published: 19th Apr 2012 02:29:57
Government lawyers have written to the European Court of Human Rights to insist it should not hear an appeal by Abu Qatada against his deportation.
The Home Office said the deadline for an appeal passed before the radical cleric's application was submitted.
But the Abu Qatada's lawyers and the court said the deadline was later.
An appeal means the deportation process cannot begin until a panel of judges has decided whether the case should go to the Grand Chamber of the court.
The European Court of Human Rights originally blocked Abu Qatada's deportation to Jordan - where he faces charges of plotting bomb attacks - on January 17.
When the Abu Qatada row blew up three months ago ministers said very little, knowing that their Labour predecessors had promised a deportation that never came.
Tuesday's statement by Theresa May was pretty clear: the process was back on track and the cleric could be gone in months.
An 11th hour appeal looks like a shattering development.
The Home Office insists that the deadline for an appeal was midnight Monday. Some of the court's procedures support that view - see the link below.
But the court's officials insist the deadline was midnight Tuesday and it was, afterall, their deadline to set.
The judges ruled that, while they were satisfied that the preacher would not face ill-treatment in Jordan, the UK could not deport him without assurances from Jordan that evidence gained through torture would not be used against him.
Ministers believe the three-month deadline for appealing against the ECHR ruling passed on Monday night and, on Tuesday, Home Secretary Theresa May told MPs that she had received fresh guarantees from Jordan that Abu Qatada would face a fair trial and that he could now be deported.
However, on Wednesday the court said it had received a request for an appeal at 22:00 BST on Tuesday, which it said was before the deadline.
Abu Qatada's lawyers are appealing against the part of the court's ruling that stated it was satisfied that he would not face torture if he was deported.
Mrs May has since told the BBC that the deadline was three months from 17 January, making it 16 April, and that the government was "absolutely clear" it had passed.
A panel of five judges will now decide if the case should go to the Grand Chamber. A court spokeswoman said the panel always considered the timing of the referral request and decided whether it was before or after the deadline.
BBC political correspondent Chris Mason said a Home Office spokesman had told him that the government's letter to the court represented a commitment to stick to the position that UK officials did get their dates right.
The deportation of Abu Qatada is an intensely emotive issue - red meat for newspapers, with big political ramifications”
Lawyers for the British government had restated "that the Abu Qatada case should not be referred to the court's Grand Chamber because the deadline for this has elapsed", he said.
The spokesman said they had not yet received a response from the court.
Our correspondent said the European court would not rush legal proceedings but that a response could be expected within a couple of days given the amount of domestic attention the issue had received in the UK.
He said the danger for the British government was that - regardless of how the dispute over the deadline was resolved - they were taking a political hit, with media focusing on the dispute.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the deportation had been put at risk by "confusion and chaos" over the dates.
And Home Affairs Select Committee chairman Keith Vaz said the situation had turned "chaotic and almost farcical" and needed to be clarified by Mrs May making a statement to the Commons.
Before the appeal was lodged, lawyers for Mrs May had told a Special Immigration Appeals Commission hearing this week that she intended to deport the cleric - who was arrested on Tuesday - on or around 30 April.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2012. UK government insists Abu Qatada appeal 'too late' [Online] (Updated 19th Apr 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1423239/UK-government-insists-Abu-Qatada-appeal-too-late [Accessed 9th Mar 2014]
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