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Radical Muslim Cleric Abu Qatada Freed in Jordan After Terror Plot Acquittals

Accused of plots in Jordan including plan to attack American school, cleric fought deportation from the UK for years — and it says he is not coming back.

by Ben Bryant
Sep 24 2014, 6:08pm

Image via AP

Abu Qatada, the radical Muslim cleric deported from the UK after a near-ten year legal battle, has been acquitted by a court in Jordan.

Qatada was released from prison after a court in Amman ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict him on charges relating to a foiled Millennial terrorist plot in Jordan.

He is still subject to a deportation order and a United Nations travel ban, making a return to the UK extremely unlikely.

He had been sentenced to 15 years imprisonment in absentia in 2000, but was acquitted on Wednesday after a judge described the charges as weak
and inadmissible.

The preacher was also acquitted in another case in June involving a foiled 1999 plan to attack an American school in Amman.

Qatada was deported from the UK last year. Ministers in the UK fought for his removal for years, but struggled to prove to judges that sending the preacher to Jordan would not breach his human rights.

The 53-year-old claimed that he had been tortured in Jordan when he arrived in the UK on a forged passport to claim asylum in 1993.

He was allowed to stay and preached at the Fourth Feathers community centre near Regent's Park. By 2001 he had begun issuing rulings justifying suicide attacks.

He was first imprisoned in Britain in 2002 after a law was instated allowing authorities to hold foreign terrorism suspects without charge or trial.

In 2005, the Law Lords — then the UK's highest court — banned detention without charge, necessitating Qatada's release. However he was subsequently detained again.

Attempts were made to deport him to Jordan where he had been convicted of conspiring in two terrorism plots - but in 2008 the Court of Appeal ruled that it would be a breach of his human rights because evidence for the convictions may have been obtained through torture.

The following year the Law Lords backed the deportation, but in 2012 the European Court of Human Rights overturned their decision.

It took the establishment of a treaty with Jordan, complete with guarantees on fair trials, for Qatada's eventual deportation to be exercised.

His views have sometimes surprised his followers. In 2005, while awaiting deportation proceedings, he made a video appeal to the kidnappers of Norman Kemper, a peace activist in Iraq. In recent weeks he told journalists that James Foley's killing was un-Islamic and that "Messengers should not be killed".

In a televised statement, Home Secretary Theresa May insisted Qatada would not be allowed back to the UK despite the ruling.

"The due process of law has taken place in Jordan, that is absolutely as it should be," she said.

"The UK courts were very clear that Abu Qatada posed a threat to our national security; that's why we were pleased as a government to be able to remove him from the United Kingdom.

"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."

Follow Ben Bryant on Twitter: @benbryant