Abu Qatada has been cleared of plotting terror attacks by a court in Jordan but Britain’s Home Secretary Theresa May immediately vowed that he would not be returning to the UK.
The decision was handed down in the case presided over by civilian judges on Wednesday in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
The court ruled there was insufficient evidence against Abu Qatada, letting him walk free. He was kissed and hugged by his father after leaving court.
But within two hours of his freedom, Theresa May, who headed Government efforts to remove Qatada from the UK, said there was no way he could return to the country.
‘The due process of law has taken place in Jordan. That is absolutely as it should be,’ she said. ‘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 was charged with involvement in plans to target Israeli and American tourists and Western diplomats in Jordan in 2000 – the so-called “millennium plot.”
Separately, the 53-year-old preacher was acquitted in June in another case, a foiled 1999 plan to attack an American school in Amman. He had pleaded not guilty to all charges.
Detention without trial
Qatada, real name Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman, was extradited from Britain after a lengthy legal process and after years of detention without trial.
He has been previously been described in courts as a senior al-Qaeda figure in Europe who had close ties to Osama bin Laden. Britain has accused him of links with Zacarias Moussaoui – the only person charged in the United States over the September 11 attacks – and with shoe bomber Richard Reid.
But he was never charged with any offence.
Since leaving Britain Qatada has praised Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahiri and al Qaeda affiliate in Syria Jabhat al Nusra. He has also been a vocal critic of ISIS which has led some to speculate that he was released by the Jordanian authorities so that he could spearhead the campaign against ISIS supporters in Jordan.
Meanwhile, advocacy organisation CAGE welcomed the news that Abu Qatada had been acquitted of terrorism offences.
Asim Qureshi of CAGE, said: “As we inexorably march into another phase of the War on Terror, Abu Qatada’s acquittal should serve to remind us of the dangers of media and government hysteria.”
“It’s now clear that the raft of counter-terrorism measures he was put under, the harassment of his family and his vilification were all done with little regard for the actual truth.
“In this and many other cases the fundamental principle of innocence until proven guilty is sacrificed at the altar of propaganda and populism. We call for a public inquiry as to how our legal system was subverted and an innocent man held without charge for one of the longest periods in modern European history.
“This case has been another sad chapter in the ongoing campaign to undermine basic rights under the slogan of fighting terrorism. We have no confidence that there will be contrition by those who are in the vanguard of the movement to crystallise the two tier justice system we currently have; but we do hope that the judiciary will at long last act as a safeguard against the politicians and press barons who lead the lynch mob.”
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