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From Death Sentence To Discharge: Cleric Abu Qatada Cleared

The Jordanian court's verdict shocked the U.K., and no one seems to agree if Qatada's acquittal will stabilize Jordan or make it a terrorist target.
Posted at 9:14 AM, Sep 24, 2014

A Jordanian court has cleared Abu Qatada of terror charges in a verdict that surprised the United Kingdom — the country that both protected and tried to rid itself of the Muslim cleric for years.

Qatada, long a fervent supporter of Al-Qaeda, faced charges of planning to carry out two separate terror attacks on Americans, Israelis and other Western foreigners in Jordan. (Video via Sky News)

Qatada received asylum in Britain in the early '90s, but prosecutors in Jordan say his writings were found in raids on the homes of suspected terrorists whose plots were stopped before they could hurt anyone. His conviction in absentia led to a death sentence.

Qatada's open support of suicide bombings, investigators' accusations he supplied funds to the foiled plots and a Spanish judge calling him Osama bin Laden's "right-hand man in Europe" led the U.K. to start trying to deport Qatada back to Jordan in 2005. His appeals, the legal battles that followed and the obligation to protect him cost the British government millions of dollars. (Video via BBC)

The judges in Jordan ruled there was insufficient evidence to convict Qatada because of the claim his co-defendants named him as a conspirator while being tortured. (Video via CNN)

A BBC correspondent reporting from the capital Amman said the case drew a media crowd of almost exclusively British journalists and the local paper largely ignored the proceedings.

Interestingly, no one can agree whether Qatada will now be a stabilizing force in Jordan, add to unrest or help make the country a target of new terrorism attacks.

Qatada has previously criticized the Sunni militant group ISIS, calling the group's claim of a Muslim caliphate "void and meaningless." He also denounced the group's beheadings of journalists while he was waiting in court for a verdict earlier this month.

Jordan is one of five Arab countries collaborating with the U.S. in its air strikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria, and some southern Jordanian cities like Ma'an have already seen pro-ISIS protests in past months. (Video via U.S. NavyChannel 4)

Qatada's attorney said he expected the cleric's release from Jordanian custody within hours of his acquittal. The U.K. has already made it clear it will resist any attempt by Qatada to return to the country.

This video includes images from Getty Images.