Sunday 18 February 2018

Abu Qatada jailed in Jordan hours after deportation

Muslim cleric Abu Qatada
Muslim cleric Abu Qatada

Ruth Sherlock

AFTER a decade-long battle to deport him from Britain, Abu Qatada is back behind bars in his native Jordan having already been charged with a string of terror offences.

Just hours after being flown out of Britain on a private flight from RAF Northolt, the 53-year-old radical cleric appeared in Jordan's state security court, where he was accused of planning bombing outrages in the Middle East.

Shortly after midnight on Saturday, Qatada left Belmarsh prison in south-east London and was driven with a police escort to RAF Northolt, about 40km away.

Dressed in traditional Middle Eastern dress, the man who was once described as al-Qa'ida's leader in Europe, boarded a private aircraft for the five-hour flight to Jordan's Malka military airbase.

After landing he was immediately whisked to court where he denied involvement in a foiled bomb attack on the American School in Amman and a hotel in the city.

He is also charged with an alleged terror attack on western and Israeli tourists during millennium celebrations.

Having fled to Britain, Qatada was convicted in absentia and given the death penalty, commuted to a life term.

But he resisted all efforts to deport him back to his native country, using human rights laws to halt extradition.

One of the main stumbling blocks was concern that Jordan might use evidence obtained under torture.

But after a fresh bid by British home secretary Theresa May, the Jordanian government ratified a treaty allaying fears over the way the case would be handled.

After yesterday's short hearing, Qatada was transferred to Muwaqqer prison, a newly built complex in Amman's military zone, where he will be held in solitary confinement.

Speaking outside the court in Amman yesterday, Qatada's lawyer, Tayser Diab, said: "He was questioned by the general prosecutor and charged in this case. The questioning went fine. My client is pleading not guilty. He has denied the charges."

He added: "We are going to submit an application to bail him out tomorrow. He is first going to be detained for 15 days for interrogation or investigation."

The radical cleric's 83-year-old father Mahmoud added: "My son is innocent and I hope the court sets him free. His spirits are high and the officials are good people – they might allow him to obtain bail after a few days."

Jordan's information minister Mohammed Momani said the country was "keen on credibility and transparency" in handling the case of Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman.

He added that his deportation "sends a message to all fugitives that they will face justice in Jordan". (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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