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Cleared Qatada 'won't return to UK'

Radical preacher Abu Qatada will not be returning to the UK after being cleared of terror charges in Jordan, the Home Secretary has said.

Qatada, who was deported from Britain after a near-decade-long legal battle to remove him, was cleared at a military court in the capital Amman of planning to target Israeli and American tourists and Western diplomats in 2000 in the so-called "millennium plot".

The 53-year-old, who was previously acquitted in June of charges relating to a foiled plan to attack an American school in Amman in 1999, has now been released from prison.

But ministers moved fast to reassure that he would not return to Britain.

Theresa May, who headed Government efforts to remove Qatada from the UK, said: "The due process of law has taken place in Jordan. That is absolutely as it should be.

"The UK courts here were very clear that Abu Qatada poses a threat to our national security. That's why we were pleased as a Government to remove him from the UK.

"He is subject to a deportation order, he is also subject to a UN travel ban. That means he will not be returning to the UK."

Qatada - who was once referred to as ''Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe'' - was finally deported from Britain last year after a protracted legal battle involving successive home secretaries.

The preacher, who was convicted in absentia and sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment by a Jordanian court in 2000, had been granted asylum in the UK.

He was stripped of his refugee status in 2002 when he was detained on suspicion of terrorism charges and in 2005 the Home Office began legal moves to remove him from the country.

He was finally flown out in July last year after a memorandum of understanding was signed between the UK and Jordanian governments giving assurances that he would receive a fair trial and that evidence obtained by torture would not be used.

Despite his acquittal, David Blunkett, who was home secretary from 2001 to 2004, said it had been right for the Government to secure his deportation.

He said the way Qatada had been able to ''prevaricate'' for so long meant it was ''very, very much more difficult'' for prosecutors to press charges successf ully when he was eventually put on trial.

''He used every possible legal means to avoid being extradited from the UK. That made it much more difficult to prove the case going back to 1999, 2000,'' he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.

''It also proves that he was wrong because the case he made against extradition was that he would not receive a fair trial in Jordan and he clearly has.''

Earlier this month, a renowned jihadi ideologue claimed that eight months ago Qatada issued an appeal to Islamic State militants to release Briton Alan Henning.

Abu Mohammed al-Maqdisi, who served a five-year sentence on terror charges in Jordan, said Qatada's son told him that the group denied holding the aid worker .

Dilwar Hussain, chair of reform group New Horizons in British Islam, said: " Abu Qatada was deemed to be a threat to our national security so we don't want him back in the UK.

"His views aren't those held by ordinary British Muslims. As he's subject to a deportation order and a travel ban, there's no risk of him returning to Britain.

"For me, the last thing we need right now is someone whose whole agenda is to set communities against each other and tell people we can't live peacefully together. In that respect he's as damaging to community relations as the BNP."

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