Muslim cleric Abu Qatada freed after acquittal in Jordan

The three-judge panel unanimously acquitted Abu Qatada “because of the lack of convincing charges against him”, said Judge Ahmed Qattarneh.

Radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, right, hugs his father after being released from prison after a Jordanian court acquitted him of providing spiritual and material support for a plot to attack tourists during Jordan's New Year celebrations in 2000. Muhammad Hamed/Reuters
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AMMAN // A Jordanian court acquitted radical cleric Abu Qatada of terrorism charges and freed him on Wednesday, ending more than a decade of legal battles against the firebrand preacher.

Abu Qatada, who was deported from Britain last year, was found not guilty of conspiring to attack tourists in Jordan during New Year celebrations in 2000.

The court found there was not enough evidence to convict Abu Qatada, who had pleaded not guilty.

The 53-year-old cleric broke into tears in court following the verdict, while members of his family applauded and shouted “Allahu Akbar” [God is Greater].

His lawyer, Hussein Mubadeen, called the decision “a success for Jordanian justice”.

Outside the courtroom, relatives including women clad in black burqas were seen hugging and kissing each other as they celebrated the ruling.

The Palestinian-born cleric was later seen leaving Muwaqqar prison, about 45 kilometres south of the capital Amman, where members of his family were waiting to greet him.

Following his acquittal, Britain’s interior ministry said there was no chance of the cleric returning to the United Kingdom.

“It is right that the due process of law has taken place in Jordan. The UK courts agreed that Abu Qatada posed a threat to national security in the UK, so we are pleased that we were able to remove him,” a spokesman said.

“Abu Qatada remains subject to a deportation order and a United Nations travel ban. He is not coming back to the UK.”

Abu Qatada – once described as the right-hand man in Europe of late Al Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden – was deported from Britain to Jordan in July 2013 after a 10-year legal fight.

*Agence France-Presse