Abu Qatada has finally faced terror charges in Jordan after a near-decade long battle to deport the radical cleric came to a tense close.
Under cover of darkness, the 53-year-old, dressed in robes and headscarf, was escorted by Scotland Yard police officers onto a private flight from RAF Northolt, in west London, in the early hours of this morning.
Upon arrival in the blistering Jordanian heat, the father-of-five was taken by masked anti-terror officers to a military court on the outskirts of the capital Amman where he was charged with conspiring to carry out al Qaida-linked attacks.
His departure triggered a wave of relief throughout Westminster as the controversial preacher could have challenged his removal at the last minute.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said: “This is something this Government said it would get done and we have got it done, and it is 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 is a threat to our country ,and that it took so long and was so difficult to deport him, but we have done it, he is back in Jordan, and that is excellent news.”
Following numerous courtroom battles, it was a treaty signed between the UK and Jordan that finally secured Qatada’s departure, giving the radical preacher the assurances he needed to leave his taxpayer-funded home behind.
The cleric was seen in images released by the Ministry of Defence being shown to the door of an aircraft by an official.
Now in Jordan, a military prosecutor said he will be detained for 15 days pending further questioning at Muwaqar I, a prison in Amman’s south-eastern industrial suburb of Sahab.
Once dubbed Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, Qatada spent his final months in the UK in Belmarsh prison, after breaching a bail condition which restricted use of mobile phones and other communication devices.
The UK government has been trying to deport him to Jordan, where he was convicted of terror charges in his absence in 1999, for about eight years.
But Qatada – who has praised the September 11 terror attacks – repeatedly used human rights laws to avoid removal.