Abu Qatada, the radical Islamic cleric who is fighting extradition to Jordan, could be free within days, according to the chairman of the special immigration appeals commission.
Mr Justice Mitting set a date of 6 February for Qatada’s bail hearing, adding that the case must be heard “within days, not weeks”.
Qatada, once known as “Osama bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe", is currently being detained at Long Lartin prison while fighting deportation on terrorism charges. He has been imprisoned since 2005, much of it under house arrest.
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Qatada could not be extradited to Jordan to face trial over concerns that he would be tried using evidence obtained under torture.
The Government is currently considering an appeal, particularly as David Cameron has come under increasing pressure to withdraw Britain from the treaty.
Despite Theresa May’s insistence that Qatada would be kept behind bars until his extradition was secured, Qatada's legal team argued that his detention was illegal.
Speaking at a London hearing on Monday, Mitting said: "Six-and-a-half years of detention requires the eligibility for bail to be considered urgently.”
“I accept that it is possible that negotiations with the Jordanian government may produce a rapid solution but past experience… leads me to believe that is likely to be an unrealistic expectation.”
Speaking for Qatada, Danny Friedman told the hearing that his client could face another two years in prison awaiting agreement between Britain and Jordan on deportation.
The 51-year-old cleric entered the UK from Jordan in 1993, claiming asylum on grounds of religious persecution. He became known to security services in 2001, after his sermons appeared on videos found at the property of one of the 9/11 bombers, and was arrested in 2005 after the London bombings.
Qatada has doggedly fought against extradition, despite repeated attempts by UK authorities to have him removed. In February 2009, the Law Lords ruled that he could be deported, however, last week’s decision by the court in Strasbourg put wheels in motion that could see Qatada not only remain in the UK, but released from prison.
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