Britain has deported a radical Muslim cleric top his homeland, Jordan, where he appeared in court Sunday and was formally charged with terrorism-related offenses.
Abu Qatada was first arrested in Britain in 2001 over alleged terrorist links. He was rearrested in 2005.
The 53-year-old cleric was held at a prison in southeast London, and was taken from there to the airport at midnight Sunday. The BBC reports that he was accompanied on the flight by “six people from Jordan, comprising three security officials, a psychologist, a medical examiner and his Jordanian lawyer.”
British Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “delighted” at the cleric’s removal.
Dale Gavlak in the Jordanian capital, Amman, filed this report for our Newscast Unit:
“Jordan’s Information Minister Mohammed al-Momani has vowed that the trial of Abu Qatada, believed to be a key al-Qaida operative in Europe, will be handled with credibility and transparency.
Jordan and Britain recently ratified a treaty on torture that removed the last obstacle from human rights concerns that had blocked previous attempts to deport him. Activists feared that torture-tainted evidence would be used against him.
Abu Qatada will be retried for his involvement in a plan targeting an American school and a hotel in Amman and a failed plot to attack Western and Israeli targets in the kingdom in the year 2000.”
Eyder wrote about Abu Qatada in March when a Special Immigration Appeals Commission decided that he couldn’t be sent back to Jordan where he was convicted in absentia in 1999 on terrorism charges.
The BBC has more on the cleric’s background:
“Abu Qatada, whose real name is Omar Othman, was granted asylum in the UK in 1994 but the Security Service came to view him as a threat as his views hardened.
“Richard Reid, the would-be mid-Atlantic shoe bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, both jailed for involvement in terrorism, are said to have sought religious advice from him.
“The cleric’s sermons were also found in a flat in the German city of Hamburg used by some of those involved in 9/11.
“He vowed to fight the UK’s 2005 decision to deport him to Jordan to face retrial over bomb plot allegations – setting in motion an eight-year legal battle.
“The dispute continued until May this year, when the cleric accepted that his right to a fair trial there was protected by the new treaty between Jordan and the UK.”