court acquits radical cleric Abu Qatada of conspiracy
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[June 26, 2014]
AMMAN (Reuters) - Jordan's state
security court on Thursday acquitted radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada,
who was extradited from Britain last year, of charges of conspiring to
commit acts of terrorism.
But the cleric will continue to be held because of separate
charges related to a plot to attack tourists during Jordan's New
Year celebrations in 2000.
The Islamist preacher had previously been sentenced in absentia by a
Jordanian court to life imprisonment for conspiracy to carry out al
Qaeda-style attacks against U.S. and other targets inside U.S. ally
Thursday's session was a retrial in which the prosecution had argued
he was a mentor to jihadist cells in Jordan while he was in Britain,
providing spiritual and material support to a campaign of violence
during the late 1990s.
But the court quashed the conspiracy charges on Thursday due to a
lack of sufficient evidence. It postponed another hearing on the New
Year plot charges until Sept 7.
In December Abu Qatada's lawyer called for his client's release,
saying his rights had been violated by the presence of the military
judge in court and reliance on evidence that was extracted under
torture from other defendants.
Linked by a Spanish judge to the late al Qaeda leader Osama Bin
Laden, Abu Qatada was in and out of jail in Britain since first
being arrested in 2001. He was extradited to Jordan in July last
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Jordanian security officials and experts on Islamist radical groups
say Abu Qatada's ideological writings have influenced many youths
involved with al Qaeda.
(Reporting by Suleiman al-Khalidi, Writing by Sylvia Westall,
Editing by Dominic Evans and Janet Lawrence)
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