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Islamist cleric Abu Qatada pleads ‘not guilty’ to Jordan terror charges

Published: Updated:

Islamist cleric Abu Qatada pleaded not guilty on Sunday to terror charges pressed by military prosecutors just hours after his deportation from Britain, his lawyer said.

"Abu Qatada pleaded not guilty. I will appeal tomorrow (Monday) to the (state security) court to release him on bail," Taysir Diab told AFP.

In an end to eight years of government efforts to send him home for trial, Abu Qatada was deported by Britain to Jordan on Sunday.

"State security court prosecutors charged Abu Qatada with conspiracy to carry our terrorist acts," a judicial official told AFP.

"He was remanded in judicial custody for 15 days in the Muwaqqar prison," in eastern Jordan, the official added without elaborating.

Abu Qatada, once described by a Spanish judge as "Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", is wanted in Jordan on charges of alleged terrorism and has been in and out of jail since first being arrested in 2001.

Jordan on Sunday vowed “credibility and transparency” in dealing Abu Qatada after Britain.

“The government is keen on credibility and transparency in handling the issue of Abu Qatada,” who was flown out of Britain at 0146 GMT on Sunday, Jordan’s information minister and government spokesman Mohammad Momani, told the state-run Petra news agency.

“The deportation of Abu Qatada, which came as a result of Jordanian-British coordination and cooperation sends a message to all fugitives that they will face justice in Jordan.”

The Palestinian-born preacher, 53, was taken from prison in an armored police van to a military airfield on the outskirts of London, where he boarded a privately chartered jet that lifted off into the night sky, according to AFP.

Jordan removed the last obstacle preventing Britain from sending Abu Qatada back home last month by approving an extradition treaty satisfying the concerns of British judges that evidence obtained through torture could be used against him, Reuters reports.

His wife and five children are expected to remain in Britain, where he first came in 1993 seeking asylum, according to AFP news agency.

(With AFP and Reuters)