Mr Justice Mitting indicated that he would reconsider the preacher’s detention if his deportation was “not imminent”.
Yesterday Theresa May, the Home Secretary, was faced with mounting evidence that her officials had made an error over a deadline for Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights, which may have allowed him to prolong his stay in Britain for up to a year.
Any prospect of a lengthy legal process would greatly increase the chances of the cleric once described as Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe being granted bail, the judge suggested.
Mrs May insists she was free to arrest Qatada and restart deportation proceedings on Tuesday because a deadline to appeal to the Grand Chamber of the Strasbourg court passed at midnight on Monday.
But Qatada’s lawyers argue that the deadline was 24 hours later, and submitted a last-ditch appeal on Tuesday night.
Legal experts and officials yesterday suggested that Home Office officials were wrong and that Qatada made his appeal within the correct time frame. This could mean that the Home Secretary acted illegally by restarting deportation proceedings prematurely.
Note that we can\’t have anything else as well as that half of the government that we\’re going to be so lucky to get. We don\’t get any clothes, food, telephone calls or holidays, we just get whichever one of Ken Clarke or Theresa May that we\’d prefer. No, you can\’t even have the pint that might be enjoyable to have with Ken nor the pint I\’d certainly need to spend time with Theresa.