Last updated at 7:06 PM on 17th January 2012
A hate cleric described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe could be released to a life on benefits in months after a court ruled he could not be deported from the UK.
In a blow to British government, radical Muslim, Abu Qatada was told by the European Court of Human Rights he would not have to go back to Jordan where he has been convicted of terror charges in his absence and may even walk free some time in the spring.
The UK now has three months in which to appeal against the ruling, but if the government does not do this, Qatada – once described as ‘a truly dangerous individual’ – could walk free.
This is because he is not currently facing trial in Britain and has not been convicted in accordance with UK law..
European judges ruled that he could not be deported because ‘there remains a real risk that evidence obtained by torture will be used against him’ and he would not receive a fair trial.
Qatada is an iconic figure for many supporters of Jihad and today’s ECHR decision flies in the face of UK law Lords who ruled almost three years ago that he could be sent back to Jordan.
It is the first time the Strasbourg-based court has found that an expulsion would be in violation of the right to a fair trial.
Home Secretary Theresa May said she was ‘disappointed’ but it was ‘not the end of the road’ and Qatada would remain in prison while ‘all the legal options’ are considered.
This is the latest phase in a 10-year battle to have Qatada kicked out of the country that has cost the taxpayer thousands of pounds in legal aid.
He is currently being held at Belmarsh prison at a cost to Britain of £70,000-a-year while his family is believed to be living in an £800,000 house, raking in benefits worth around £50,000 a year.
Qatada has been in and out of prison since 2002 when he was arrested under anti-terrorism laws, a year after being stopped by British police with an envelope ‘for the mujahedin in Chechnya’ containing £805.