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Cleric Abu Qatada in protest as trial starts

Muslim cleric Abu Qatada has told a Jordanian court he is not guilty of terrorism charges and challenged its authority to try him under the terms of his extradition from the UK five months ago.

Appearing in court in brown prison fatigues, Abu Qatada said the presence of a military judge in the panel of three judges violated the agreement under which he was flown back to Jordan in July after many years of legal battles in Britain.

While in Britain he was convicted and sentenced in absentia by a Jordanian court to life imprisonment for conspiring to carry out terrorist attacks against America and other targets inside Jordan. He is now being retried on those charges.

"I have been prevented from defending myself for a long period, and God knows I am innocent," he said, saying the charges against him were fabricated.

"There has been a betrayal of the agreement under which I have come. There is now a military judge - this is the first betrayal by you. I have come to be tried by civilian judges."

His lawyer Ghazi Thuneibat called for Abu Qatada's release, saying his client's rights had been violated by the presence of a military judge. But prosecutor Fawaz al-Atoum said Jordan's state security court law allowed for military tribunals in cases of terrorism.

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