Abu Qatada Denies Terrorism Charges In Jordan

Abu Qatada Denies Terrorism Charges In Jordan

Radical preacher Abu Qatada has pleaded not guilty to terror charges - just hours after his deportation from the UK to Jordan.

After landing at an isolated airstrip near the Jordanian capital Amman, Qatada was driven by police escort to the heavily guarded State Security Court.

There he was charged by military prosecutors with conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts.

The 53-year-old denies involvement in a plot to attack American and Israeli tourists and faces a retrial.

No reporters were allowed into the hearing, but a court official said Qatada was remanded in custody for 15 days at the maximum security Muwaqqar prison, which houses dozens of convicted terrorists.

His lawyer, Taysir Diab, said he would be lodging an appeal on Monday for Qatada to be released on bail.

It is understood Jordanian authorities allowed Qatada's family to greet him on his arrival in Amman.

Home Secretary Theresa May told Sky News that she was "very pleased" to have finally succeeded in deporting the cleric.

"He is now where people wanted him to be - which is not in the UK, but back in Jordan," she said.

Accompanied by four police officers, Qatada left for Jordan in the early hours on a military plane from RAF Northolt in west London.

It marks the end of an eight-year legal battle to remove Qatada, described by the Government as a "truly dangerous individual" and a "key player" in al Qaeda-related terrorism.

Sky News correspondent Mark White said: "He has been a thorn in the side of five home secretaries who have tried to get rid of him. As far as the British Government and senior politicians are concerned, there will be quiet celebration that he has finally left the country."

Qatada used his human rights to make a series of costly challenges to moves to deport him to his native country.

The case became a national embarrassment, with critics of European human rights legislation claiming it rendered UK politicians powerless to remove someone who they believed to be a clear threat to national security.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "I am absolutely delighted. This is something this Government said it would get done and we have got it done.

"It is an issue, like for the rest of the country, has made my blood boil. That this man, who has no right to be in our country, who is a threat to our country, and that it took so long and was so difficult to deport him.

"But we've done it, he's back in Jordan, that's excellent news."

The Home Office spent a total of £1.7m on legal fees from the many court proceedings.

Mrs May said the Jordanian national's departure marked "the conclusion of efforts to remove him since 2001 and I believe this will be welcomed by the British public".

She added: "I am glad that this government's determination to see him on a plane has been vindicated and that we have at last achieved what previous governments, Parliament and the British public have long called for.

"This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country.

"I am also clear that we need to make sense of our human rights laws and remove the many layers of appeals available to foreign nationals we want to deport. We are taking steps - including through the new Immigration Bill - to put this right."

It was a treaty signed between the UK and Jordan that finally secured Qatada's departure, giving him the assurances he needed to leave his taxpayer-funded home behind.

The agreement, announced by Mrs May earlier this year, aimed to allay fears that evidence extracted through torture will be used against the father-of-five at a retrial.

In a shock move, Qatada pledged in May to leave Britain with his family if and when the treaty was fully ratified, a process that to the relief of many concluded earlier this week.

It is understood he will be held in solitary confinement in prison, until the Jordanian authorities can put him on trial.

Jordanian information minister Mohammed Momani said the country "is keen on credibility and transparency" in handling Qatada.

He added the deportation of the Palestinian-born cleric "sends a message to all fugitives that they will face justice in Jordan".

Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said: "Abu Qatada should have made this decision to face justice in Jordan before, as this has dragged on far too long, but it is extremely welcome news that this saga is now at an end."

Qatada originally fled the Middle East and arrived in the UK in 1993. He was granted asylum the following year.

His increasingly radical sermons caught the attention of the security services in Britain and in numerous other countries.

A Spanish judge described him as the "spiritual head of the mujaheddin in Britain".

A number of people arrested on terrorism offences, including British born "shoe-bomber" Richard Reid, admitted seeking religious advice from him.

His sermons were found in the Hamburg flat used by a number of the 9/11 hijackers.

In 2001, on the eve of tough new British anti-terror laws allowing for the detention without trial of foreign terror suspects, Qatada went on the run, before later being arrested and held in Belmarsh prison.

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