The ten-year battle to deport Abu Qatada was finally nearing its conclusion last night.
Preparations are in hand to put the hate preacher on a plane home early on Sunday.
The farcical saga, which has enraged politicians and the public alike, has already cost £2million.
Although ministers insist legal hurdles remain, Whitehall sources say the Al Qaeda fanatic should be handed over to the authorities in Jordan this weekend.
The breakthrough follows yesterday’s adoption by the Middle Eastern state of a treaty that will protect Qatada’s human rights.
He has made this a condition of him voluntarily going home to face trial over his alleged involvement in a bomb plot.
Last night Channel 4 News revealed he will be served with new papers for his deportation that give him 72 hours to appeal.
If he honours his word he will be put on a flight home from RAF Northolt in West London.
Last night security minister James Brokenshire said: ‘While further steps remain, our focus is on seeing Abu Qatada on a plane to Jordan at the earliest opportunity.’
Qatada – once dubbed Osama Bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe – has repeatedly used human rights laws to thwart his removal.
He claimed his trial for plotting a terror attack would be unfair because some of the evidence used against him may have been obtained by torture.
This argument, originally rejected by the British courts, was upheld by judges in Strasbourg. It forced Home Secretary Theresa May to seek new legal guarantees from Jordan that Qatada’s rights would not be breached.
The case then began again in the British courts and was expected to take years.
But, in a shock move earlier this year, Qatada said he would return home voluntarily when the treaty Mrs May agreed with Jordan is fully ratified. It explicitly rules out the use of any torture evidence.
It was published in the Jordanian government’s official gazette yesterday – confirming its status as law.
Qatada, who has cost the taxpayer millions of pounds in housing benefit and other state handouts is behind bars in London’s Belmarsh prison.
He was released on bail in mid-February but was returned to jail a few weeks later after a police raid on his home.
Officers say he breached a bail condition which restricts use of mobile phones and other communication devices.
A search found memory sticks containing jihadist propaganda and internet enabled mobile phones.
Over the past eight years, Qatada’s lawyers have pocketed £864,944 in legal aid. Of this, the authorities have managed to claw back only £217,286 by selling assets belonging to the preacher.
The cost to taxpayers of trying to boot him out has been a further £938,630 in the domestic courts, and £130,018 at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg. This gives a net total of £1,716, 286.
He has spent years in maximum security prisons, with every year inside costing taxpayers up to £60,000.
In May a court was told that Qatada and his family had complained that their taxpayer-funded house was too small and they did not have enough storage space.
Judges heard that his family would join him in Jordan rather than stay behind in Britain. But officials are conscious that, despite his commitment to leave Britain, Qatada could still make a U-turn and lodge fresh legal appeals.