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.