24 Sep 2014

Abu Qatada cleared of terror charges in Jordan

Abu Qatada, the radical Islamic preacher deported from Britain after an eight-year legal battle, is released from prison after being found not guilty of terrorism offences.

A military court in Jordan, Amman, ruled there was insufficient evidence against Abu Qatada, who was charged with planning to target Israeli and American tourists and western diplomats in 2000 in the so-called “millennium plot”.

Abu Qatada is subject to a deportation order … he will not be returning to the UK. Teresa May

The 53-year-old cleric, who was previously acquitted in June of charges relating to a foiled plan to attack an American school in Amman in 1999, was later released from prison.

‘Deportation order’

But ministers moved fast to reassure that he would not return to Britain. Theresa May, who headed government efforts to remove Abu Qatada from the UK, said: “The due process of law has taken place in Jordan. That is absolutely as it should be. The UK courts here were very clear that Abu Qatada poses a threat to our national security.

“That’s why we were pleased as a government to remove him from the UK. He is subject to a deportation order, he is also subject to a UN travel ban. That means he will not be returning to the UK.”

Abu Qatada – who was once referred to as “Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe” – was finally deported from Britain in 2013 after a protracted legal battle involving successive home secretaries.

The preacher, who was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment by a Jordanian court in 2000, had been granted asylum in the UK.

He was stripped of his refugee status in 2002 when he was detained on suspicion of terrorism charges and in 2005 the Home Office began legal moves to remove him from the country.

Alan Henning kidnapping

He was finally flown out in July last year after a memorandum of understanding was signed between the UK and Jordanian governments giving assurances that he would receive a fair trial and that evidence obtained by torture would not be used.

Earlier this month, a renowned jihadi ideologue claimed that eight months ago Abu Qatada issued an appeal to Islamic State militants to release Briton Alan Henning.

Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, who served a five-year sentence on terror charges in Jordan, said Abu Qatada’s son told him that the group denied holding the aid worker.