RADICAL cleric Abu Qatada is reportedly preparing to leave Britain, with officials in Jordan saying he was expected to arrive there on Sunday.
The reports came after the Jordanian government published a treaty designed to trigger Qatada’s deportation, leaving just a handful of legal steps before it is brought into law.
Qatada previously volunteered to leave his taxpayer-funded UK home for Jordan – with his family in tow – as soon as the treaty was ratified by both countries.
The agreement aims to allay fears that evidence extracted through torture could be used against him in Jordan at a retrial.
The Home Office refused to confirm or deny reports that Qatada was set to finally leave Britain on Sunday.
But Jordanian officials have been quoted as saying they expected the terror suspect to depart in the early hours.
Media reports quoted a Jordanian government official as saying: “Abu Qatada is expected to leave Britain in the early hours of Sunday and should arrive in the morning in Jordan on the same day.
“He will arrive in Jordan on a military plane, escorted by Jordanian and British guards.”
If he were to leave on Sunday, it would mark the end of a near ten-year battle to eject the controversial Muslim preacher from the country, which has cost more than £1.7 million.
A Home Office spokeswoman would not comment on the reports, but added: “Our focus is on seeing Abu Qatada on a plane to Jordan at the earliest opportunity.”
The government has been trying to deport him to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999, for about eight years.
The publication of the treaty comes after both houses of the Jordanian parliament and King Abdullah II approved the treaty, while the UK parliamentary scrutiny process has also been completed.
However, Home Secretary Theresa May previously warned that, even when the treaty was fully ratified, it would not necessarily mean that Qatada will be on a plane to Jordan within days. The case remains open to legal challenge.
Qatada is currently behind bars in London’s Belmarsh prison after breaching a bail condition which restricts use of mobile phones and other communication devices.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission previously heard that a USB stick understood to belong to Qatada’s eldest son contained “jihadist files” made by the “media wing of al-Qaeda”.
The terror suspect is also being investigated by Scotland Yard over suspected extremist material found during the search of his home.