Muslim cleric Abu Qatada was detained upon arrival in his homeland of Jordan to be retried on terrorism charges after being deported from the U.K. today.
Abu Qatada faces trial again for “terrorist crimes,” Jordan’s state-run Petra news agency said after his arrest, citing government spokesman Mohammad Hussein Al Moumani. Abu Qatada was sentenced in absentia to life in prison for conspiracy to attack an American school in the capital, Amman, in 1999. He was ordered jailed for 15 years for a plot against tourists during millennium celebrations in Jordan in 2000. Neither of the planned attacks was carried out.
“This dangerous man has now been removed from our shores to face the courts in his own country,” British Home Secretary Theresa May said in a statement on the U.K. government website.
Britain failed in repeated attempts since 2001 to deport Abu Qatada, whose real name is Mohammed Othman, because of court rulings that evidence linked to torture might be used against him in Jordan. Abu Qatada, who was 52 when he was re-arrested in March, has been in and out of U.K. jails for more than a decade.
Television pictures showed Abu Qatada dressed in a white robe as he boarded a plane at the Royal Air Force base at Northolt, west of London. He arrived at the base after leaving the high-security Belmarsh prison in southeast London in a blue armored police van flanked by three police cars. The aircraft taking him to Jordan departed shortly before 3 a.m. U.K. time.
The cleric, described by a judge in Spain as former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, said in May that he would return voluntarily to Jordan if the country ratified a treaty with the U.K. promising him a fair trial. That took effect July 2. In May, Abu Qatada was denied bail by a U.K. judge who called him a threat to national security.
May said the government this year will use an immigration bill that’s already before lawmakers to reduce the number of appeals that can be made before a deportation order is issued.
“I was deeply frustrated by how long it took and the prime minister was as well,” she told the “Andrew Marr Show” on BBC Television. “We want to ensure in future deportation can be done more quickly.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said he was “absolutely delighted” to see Abu Qatada sent to Jordan.
“It’s an issue that, like the rest of the country, has made my blood boil -- that this man who has no right to be in our country, who was a threat to our country and that it took so long and was so difficult to deport him,” he told broadcasters.
The move means Abu Qatada “can stand fair trial in Jordan for the serious terrorism charges he faces there, so justice can be done,” Yvette Cooper, who speaks on home affairs for the opposition Labour Party, said in an e-mailed statement. “We must ensure that delays like this do not last for so long in future and that the system is reformed to make it faster.”