Abu Qatada cleared by Jordan court of 1998 terror plot
Salafi cleric Abu Qatada has been found not guilty by the Jordanian state security court of plotting a terrorist bomb attack on the American school in Amman in 1998.
The Jordanian national was deported to his home country in July 2013 after being arrested in Britain in the immediate aftermath of 9/11.
Father of five Qatada was granted asylum in the UK in 1994 but the security service MI5 saw the militant Islamist as a national security threat.
His extradition was the outcome of a decade-long battle during which Abu Qatada pleaded innocent. He accepted to return to Jordan after the home secretary Theresa May secured that the evidence obtained by torture would not be used against him.
According to the prosecution, he was a mentor to jihadist cells in Jordan while living in exile Britain, providing both spiritual and material support to a campaign of violence during the late 1990s.
However, a British judge said: “Without the discounted evidence, the case against Abu Qatada was extremely thin.”
Bethlehem-born Qatada was charged in relation to the bomb attacks of 1998 and the “millennium bomb plot” of 2000. The verdict on the second set of charges is scheduled for coming September. If convicted he could face a minimum of 15 years’ hard labour.
The 51-year-old preacher was condemned to death in absentia in 1999 by an Amman court but the punishment had been commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour. In 2000, he was sentenced to 15 years for plotting attacks during the millennium celebrations but was granted a retrial in his presence.
Immigration and security minister James Brokenshire commented: “The UK courts agreed that Qatada posed a threat to national security in the UK, so we are pleased that we were able to remove him. He is subject to a deportation order which means he will be unable to return to the UK.”