Jordan charges preacher deported from UK
Jordan has charged Palestinian-born Muslim preacher Abu Qatada with terrorism offences, AFP reports.
Qatada arrived in Amman on Sunday after Britain deported him, ending a decade-long legal battle.
“Abu Qatada landed at Marka airport in east Amman,” the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
“He was escorted by British and Jordanian guards, who handed him over to state security court prosecutors.”
Qatada has pleaded not guilty to the charges, AFP quoted his lawyer as saying.
Television pictures showed the Palestinian-born preacher dressed in a white robe and boarding the privately chartered aircraft at the RAF Northolt airbase in west London before it lifted into the sky at 1:46 GMT.
The deportation came after a treaty guaranteeing that evidence obtained by torture would not be used against him in any retrial was agreed by the British and Jordanian governments last month.
The British Home Secretary, Theresa May, the fifth consecutive holder of her position to try to expel the cleric, confirmed that the 53-year-old, once dubbed Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe by a Spanish judge, had left the country.
“Abu Qatada was deported today to his home country of Jordan to face terrorism charges,” May said in a written statement.
“His departure marks the conclusion of efforts to remove him since 2001 and I believe this will be welcomed by the British public.
“This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country.”
Britain has been taking legal action against Qatada since 2001 but only formally launched extradition proceedings against him in 2005.
The UK’s efforts to deport the cleric has run-up $2.7m in legal expenses.
After years of legal battles, his lawyers unexpectedly said in May that he would return to Jordan once the fair trial treaty was ratified by the Jordanian parliament.
“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,” May said.
Qatada has been in and out of jail since his arrest in 2001 and was sent back to prison last March for breaching his bail conditions.
He was condemned to death in 1999 for conspiracy to carry out attacks including one on the American school in Amman, but the sentence was immediately reduced to life imprisonment with hard labour.
In 2000, he was sentenced to 15 years for plotting to carry out attacks on tourists during the millennium celebrations in Jordan.
Under Jordanian law, Qatada faces retrial for the offences on his return, because the original convictions were made in absentia.