His lawyers lodged an appeal with Europe’s human rights judges, effectively blocking the government’s attempts to deport him to Jordan, just hours after he was sent back to jail.
But Mrs May insisted the radical cleric had already run out of time to appeal over the judges’ original decision which was made three months ago.
Qatada’s legal team claims that judges at the European Court of Human Rights were wrong when they ruled in January that he would not be at risk of torture if returned to Jordan.
The court’s Grand Chamber will decide whether to hear his appeal “soon”, but the radical cleric, once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, cannot be deported until the court has reached a decision.
Mrs May said: “This is a delaying tactic from Abu Qatada. It is a delaying tactic which he chose to use only after he had seen the strength of the government’s case in court yesterday.
“The decision as to whether or not Abu Qatada remains in prison will be one that will be taken by the UK courts, if he chooses to apply for bail. Obviously, if he does, we will oppose that bail vigorously.
“I want to see Abu Qatada deported. I am absolutely clear that once we have got through this, we will resume those deportation proceedings.
“I want Abu Qatada to be on a plane to Jordan and I know that that is what the British public want. What the government is absolutely focused on is making sure we can deport Abu Qatada.”