Britain approves Abu Qatada treaty

A treaty intended to clear the way to deporting radical cleric Abu Qatada to Jordan has passed into law in Britain.

The agreement, announced by Home Secretary Theresa May in April, aims to allay fears that evidence extracted through torture will be used against the terror suspect at a retrial.

The scrutiny process by the British parliament completed at midnight on Thursday, leaving a handful of legal steps before the deportation process can begin.

Jordan's King Adbullah and both houses of the Jordanian parliament have also approved the treaty.

The document must also be published in an official newspaper in Jordan and diplomatic letters must be exchanged between the two countries.

The treaty could then lead to the deportation of Abu Qatada next week, reports said.

The 52-year-old cleric has already indicated he will not challenge deportation if the treaty is passed because the document guarantees him a fair trial.

May has previously warned that, even when the treaty is fully ratified, it will not necessarily mean that he will leave for Jordan within days because the case remains open to legal challenge.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "We welcome the approval of the Treaty by both the UK and Jordanian Parliaments. Our focus remains on seeing Qatada on a plane to Jordan at the earliest opportunity."

Last month, Abu Qatada unexpectedly volunteered to leave the country as soon as the treaty between Britain and Jordan is ratified by both countries.

He has been a thorn in the side of the British government for eight years.

The government has been trying to deport Abu Qatada to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999.

It emerged last week that the fight to remove him from Britain has cost the taxpayer more than £1.7 million since 2005.

Abu Qatada is being held in the high-security Belmarsh prison in London after breaching a bail condition which restricts use of mobile phones and other communication devices.