Wednesday 25 April 2018

'Osama bin Laden's right-hand man' is cleared

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada hugs his mother upon his arrival at his family home after he was released from a prison near Amman. Reuters
Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada hugs his mother upon his arrival at his family home after he was released from a prison near Amman. Reuters

Lizzie Dearden

Radical Islamic preacher Abu Qatada has been cleared of terrorism charges in Jordan after being deported from the UK following an eight-year legal battle.

The 53-year-old walked free within hours after a military court in Amman ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict him of planning the foiled "millennium plot" terrorist attacks in 2000.

Extremists in Jordan had allegedly planned to bomb four sites including a hotel, border crossing and Christian holy sites to kill tourists from the United States, Israel and the West.

More than 20 people have already been found guilty of planning the attacks, which were stopped by intelligence officials before they could be carried out. His relatives erupted into cheers as the verdict was announced on Wednesday, while women cried with joy and embraced each other. Qatada, who was guarded by heavily armed police, was promptly taken out of the courtroom and made no comments to the waiting media.

The cleric, once called "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", has recently criticised Isis militants who are threatening to kill British hostages in their bloody campaign to establish an Islamic caliphate in Iraq and Syria. The Home Office insisted that there was no possibility of the preacher, whose real name is Omar Mohammad Othman, returning to the UK. A spokesperson said: "Abu Qatada's re-trial in Jordan was made possible thanks to this Government's determination to successfully deport him from the UK to face the courts in his own country.

"It is right that the due process of law has taken place in Jordan. The UK courts agreed that Abu Qatada posed a threat to national security in the UK, so we are pleased that we were able to remove him. "Abu Qatada remains subject to a deportation order and a United Nations travel ban. He is not coming back to the UK." The West Bank-born preacher fled a Jordanian crackdown on militants more than 20 years ago, arriving in Britain on a forged passport in 1993 and being granted asylum a year later.

While still in the UK, he was convicted in absentia and sentenced to life in prison ..

During his imprisonment earlier this month, the cleric condemned beheadings carried out by Isil.

Irish Independent

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