Trial date set for Jordanian radical cleric Abu Qatada
Radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada, deported by Britain in July after a near decade-long legal battle, is to go on trial in Jordan on December 10, judicial sources said on Tuesday.
“The state security court has set next Tuesday, December 10, as the date for the first hearing in the trial of Abu Qatada,” one source said.
Defence lawyer Taysir Diab said he would meet his client on Saturday ahead of the trial opening.
After his deportation in July, Jordanian military prosecutors charged Abu Qatada with conspiracy to carry out terrorist acts. If convicted he could face a minimum of 15 years’ hard labour, a judicial source said last month.
“The hearing, set for midday, should be public and open to the media,” Diab said.
Britain’s expulsion of Abu Qatada came after Amman and London ratified a treaty guaranteeing that evidence obtained by torture would not be used in his retrial and that the proceedings would be transparent.
The Palestinian-born preacher was condemned to death in his absence in 1999 for conspiracy to carry out terror attacks, including on the American school in Amman, but this was immediately commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour.
In 2000, he was also sentenced in absentia to 15 years for plotting to attack tourists in Jordan during millennium celebrations.
However, he is to stand trial again for the charges, as Jordanian law gives him the right to a retrial with him present in the dock.
Born Omar Mahmud Mohammed Otman in Bethlehem in the now Israeli-occupied West Bank, Abu Qatada has Jordanian nationality because the town was part of Jordan at the time of his birth.
Videotapes of his sermons were allegedly found in the Hamburg flat of 9/11 ringleader Mohammed Atta.
Top Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon once branded Abu Qatada Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, although he denies ever having met the late al-Qaeda leader.