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New hurdle in British bid to deport cleric

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RAPHAEL SATTER and GREG KELLER | April 18, 2012 02:41 PM EST | AP

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LONDON — Radical Islamist Abu Qatada has appealed to Europe's human rights court to challenge Britain's move to deport him to Jordan, a court spokeswoman said Wednesday. The move raised another potential hurdle to long-standing efforts to expel the terror-linked cleric from Britain.

Britain's Home Office immediately challenged the filing, saying Abu Qatada had "no right" to refer the case to the court's Grand Chamber since a deadline to do so lapsed at midnight on Monday, and Prime Minister David Cameron said he was still determined to expel the extremist from the U.K.

"I am absolutely clear, the entire government is clear, and frankly I think the country is clear, that this man has no right to be in our country," Cameron said late Wednesday. "That is what we are determined to achieve, no matter how difficult it is, no matter how long it may take."

British authorities have long tried to extradite the Palestinian-Jordanian preacher described in Spanish and British courts as a top European al-Qaida figure. He was convicted in his absence in Jordan of terrorist offenses related to two alleged bomb plots in 1999 and 2000. He faces a retrial if deported.

The European Court ruled in January that Abu Qatada could not be sent to Jordan because of a risk that evidence obtained through torture would be used against him there. But British authorities say they have since secured a series of pledges that address the European court's concerns.

Celine Menu-Lange, a spokeswoman for the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, said the court received Qatada's appeal late Tuesday. Menu-Lange says the court's January ruling that he could not be deported is still in effect.

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Keller reported from Paris.