A handout picture from the British Home Office shows radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada boarding a privately chartered jet at the RAF Northolt base in west London, early on July 7, 2013, as he gets deported to Jordan. The family of Abu Qatada, the radical cleric who was recently deported to face terror charges in Jordan, on Thursday left Britain. © Sgt Ralph Merry Abipp Raf - MOD/AFP/File
Last updated: August 16, 2013

Abu Qatada family leaves Britain

The family of Abu Qatada, the radical cleric who was recently deported to face terror charges in Jordan, on Thursday left Britain after dropping a bid to stay there, the Foreign Office said.

"Abu Qatada's wife and five children have now left the UK," said a British government statement.

"The family has formally agreed to drop an outstanding application for 'Indefinite Leave to Remain'."

This allows people who have lived legally in Britain for a certain length of time to apply for permission to settle permanently.

The ministry would not reveal where the family was heading, but the BBC reported they were to join Abu Qatada in Jordan.

A family friend told AFP last month that his wife and five children were planning to move to Amman.

The preacher was flown from Britain to the Middle East on July 7, ending a nearly decade-long battle by successive governments to deport him.

Britain had been taking legal action against the 53-year-old, once dubbed Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe by a Spanish judge, since 2001, but only launched formal extradition proceedings against him in 2005.

Jordanian military prosecutors charged him with "conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts" just hours after his deportation from Britain. He pleaded not guilty.

He is currently in the Muwaqqar prison, a maximum security facility in the desert east of Amman that houses more than 1,000 inmates, most of them Islamists convicted of terror offences.

Abu Qatada was condemned to death in absentia in 1999 for conspiracy to carry out terror attacks, including on the American school in Amman.

But the sentence was immediately commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour.

In 2000, he was sentenced in his absence to 15 years for plotting to attack tourists in Jordan during millennium celebrations.

Britain's expulsion of Abu Qatada came after Amman and London ratified a treaty guaranteeing that evidence obtained by torture would not be used in his retrial.

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