During the recent public hue and cry on both sides over the banning of Pamela Geller and me from the UK, many, many people said likened us to jihad preachers like Abu Qatada and Anjem Choudary, saying either that we all should be kicked out and/or kept out of Britain, or that since the UK let them in, it should let us in. The equation itself, however, is a monstrous libel. We do not preach violence. We do not preach hatred — nor does this claim become true by virtue of being endlessly repeated by Leftists and Islamic supremacists. The goal of both of our work from the beginning has been to protect the freedom of speech, the freedom of conscience, and equality of rights for all people. We do not plot terror attacks. The easy moral equivalence was yet another libel in a campaign full of them.
Please contribute to our legal fund to overturn the unjust ban on Pamela Geller and me entering the UK here.
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“Deported cleric Abu Qatada lands in Jordan, denies terror charge at court appearance,” by Ahmad Khatib for AAP, July 7:
Radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada has been deported from Britain and is on his way to Jordan.
ISLAMIST cleric Abu Qutada has pleaded not guilty to terror charges pressed by Jordanian military prosecutors just hours after his deportation from Britain, his lawyer said.
Britain’s expulsion of the Palestinian-born preacher on Sunday after a decade-long legal battle drew expressions of delight from Prime Minister David Cameron.
Abu Qatada, who had been in and out of British prisons since 2002 even though he was never convicted of any offence, had once been described as now slain Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe.
“Abu Qatada pleaded not guilty,” defence lawyer Taysir Diab told AFP after the closed-door hearing before a military tribunal.
“I will appeal tomorrow (Monday) to the (state security) court to release him on bail,” he added.
The cleric was taken to the courthouse near Marka military airfield in east Amman just hours after he was flown in from Britain.
“State security court prosecutors charged Abu Qatada with conspiracy to carry our terrorist acts,” a judicial official told AFP.
“He was remanded in judicial custody for 15 days in the Muwaqqar prison,” in eastern Jordan, he added.
Reporters were not allowed into the courtroom to hear the charges being read out despite a pledge by Information Minister Mohammad Momani of “transparency” in Jordan’s handling of Abu Qatada’s retrial.
Abu Qatada was condemned to death in absentia in 1999 for conspiracy to carry out terror attacks, including on the American school in Amman, but the sentence was immediately commuted to life imprisonment with hard labour.
In 2000, he was sentenced in his absence to 15 years for plotting to carry out terror attacks on tourists in Jordan during millennium celebrations.
Jordanian law gives him the right to a retrial with him present in the dock.
Cameron hailed the final removal of Abu Qatada from British soil after a legal battle that cost the taxpayer STG1.7 million ($2.8 million).
“I was absolutely delighted. This is something this government said it would get done, and we have got it done,” Cameron told reporters.
“It’s an issue that, like the rest of the country, has made my blood boil.”
Britain was finally able to expel the 53-year-old father-of-five to Jordan after the two governments last month ratified a Treaty on Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters, guaranteeing that evidence obtained by torture would not be used in his retrial.
The Jordanian information minister reiterated the undertaking on Sunday.
“His retrial will be conducted in line with international standards, protecting his rights and ensuring justice, fairness, credibility and transparency,” Momani told the state-run Petra news agency.
A security official told AFP that after his arrival “a team of doctors including the state coroner examined the suspect and made sure there were no signs of torture.”
London had been trying to deport Abu Qatada since 2005 but British and European courts had blocked his expulsion on the grounds that evidence might be used against him that had been obtained by torture.
But after years of legal battles his lawyers unexpectedly said in May that he would return once the fair trial treaty was ratified by the Jordanian parliament.
He was taken from prison in an armoured police van to a military airfield on the outskirts of London, from which he was flown out at 1.46AM local time (10.45AM AEST).
Television pictures showed him dressed in a white robe as he boarded the aircraft at the RAF Northolt base. He had earlier left high security Belmarsh jail in southeast London in a blue armoured police van flanked by three police cars.
Abu Qatada’s wife and five children are expected to remain in Britain, where he first sought asylum in 1993.
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 Bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, although the cleric denies ever having met the now slain Al-Qaeda leader.