U.K. border agency officers have rearrested Abu Qatada, a Muslim cleric who the government says poses a threat to national security, but his deportation to Jordan where he faces terrorism charges may take months, Home Secretary Theresa May said Tuesday.
"Deportation might still take time," May said. "The proper processes must be followed and the rule of law must take precedence. But today, Qatada has been arrested and the deportation process is under way."
U.K. governments have been trying for a decade to deport Qatada, May said. He has been detained several times during the period, and was last released from jail under strict bail conditions in February, the government said.
Qatada has fought against deportation on human rights grounds. His lawyer wasn't immediately available to comment on the latest developments.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled against Qatada's deportation in January due to a risk that evidence could be used against him in a retrial in Jordan that had been obtained through torture.
The U.K. government has since worked with Jordanian authorities to get assurances he will face a fair trial, May said. His conviction in Jordan will be quashed and he will be tried in a public court with civilian judges, access to lawyers and the right to call witnesses, she said.
Qatada could still appeal against deportation in a process that could take months, but she was confident the U.K. government would be able to deport him eventually. Qatada should remain in custody throughout the process, she added.