Abu Qatada pleads not guilty to terror charges in Jordan

Abu Qatada

Retrial in Jordan begins today following the £1.7m eight-year battle to deport radical cleric from UK

LAST UPDATED AT 11:14 ON Tue 10 Dec 2013

RADICAL cleric Abu Qatada has pleaded not guilty to terrorism charges in a court in Jordan.

The 53-year-old Palestinian-Jordanian, whose real name is Omar Othman, is accused of involvement in a series of terror plots against Westerners in Jordan between 1998 and 2000.

He was previously convicted of the offences in his absence and sentenced to life imprisonment but is now being re-tried. Under Jordanian law, he has the right to a retrial with him present in the dock.

Qatada, wearing prison overalls, told a brief hearing in Amman: "You know full well I am not guilty and that this accusation is false."

At the start of today’s proceedings, he reportedly objected to the presence of a military judge at the hearing, claiming that it violated an agreement with the UK, which led to his extradition, ensuring he had a fair trial.

The Muslim cleric could face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. The case has been adjourned until 24 December, reports the BBC.

Qatada’s eight-year legal battle to stay in the UK is said to have cost British taxpayers more than £1.7m. Attempts to deport him began in 2005 but were repeatedly prevented by judges concerned about his human rights. He eventually gave up his legal challenges and was flown to Jordan in July. At the time, Home Secretary Theresa May said the UK government had been "vindicated", while Prime Minister David Cameron said he was "delighted" at his removal. Since arriving in Jordan, he has been held in a high-security prison in a remote desert area.

He faces charges of conspiring to carry out bombings in Jordan, which resulted in successful attacks on the American School and the Jerusalem Hotel in Amman in 1998. He is also accused of involvement in a failed plan known as the "millennium conspiracy" in 2000, to detonate explosions against Western and Israeli targets during millennium celebrations. · 

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