Abu Qatada has denied plotting al-Qaida inspired terror attacks at a court in Jordan after a near-decade long battle to deport the radical cleric finally saw him board a plane out of Britain.
Under cover of darkness, the 53-year-old, dressed in robes and headscarf, was escorted by Scotland Yard police officers on to a private flight from RAF Northolt, in west London, in the early hours of yesterday.
Upon arriving in Jordan, the father-of-five was taken by masked anti-terror police to a military court on the outskirts of the capital Amman where he pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to carry out terror attacks in 1999 and 2000.
Charges faced by Qatada cover a foiled plot against the American school in Amman and an alleged attack on Israeli and American tourists during new year celebrations.
His lawyer, Tayseer Thiab, said Qatada “told military prosecutors that he is not guilty of terrorism and rejected the charges against him”.
A military prosecutor said he will be detained for 15 days pending further questioning at Muwaqar I, a prison in Amman’s southeastern industrial suburb of Sahab.
However Mr Thiab is understood to be preparing a bail application for as early as today.
Information Minister Mohammed Momani said Jordan “is keen on credibility and transparency” in handling Qatada, whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman. He added that his deportation “sends a message to all fugitives that they will face justice in Jordan”.
Qatada’s father, Mahmoud, and an unidentified relative stood at the entrance of the State Security Court in Amman, but were not allowed to enter.
“I have nothing to say, except that my son is innocent and I hope the court will set him free,” Qatada’s father told reporters.
His departure has triggered a wave of relief throughout Westminster as the controversial preacher could have challenged his removal once again.