AMMAN - A Jordanian court acquitted radical cleric Abu Qatada of terrorism charges and immediately freed him on Wednesday, ending more than a decade of legal cases against the firebrand preacher.
Abu Qatada, who was deported from Britain last year, was found not guilty of conspiring to attack tourists in Jordan during millenium celebrations, due to insufficient evidence, officials said.
The bearded 53-year-old, who had pleaded not guilty, broke into tears in court following the verdict, while members of his family applauded and shouted Allahu Akbar (God is Greater).
His lawyer, Hussein Mubadeen, called the decision "a success for Jordanian justice".
Outside the courtroom, relatives including women clad in black burqas were seen hugging and kissing each other as they celebrated the ruling.
The Palestinian-born cleric was later seen leaving Muwaqqar prison, about 45 kilometres (30 miles) south of the capital Amman, where members of his family were waiting to greet him.
Following his acquittal, Britain's interior ministry said there was no chance of the cleric returning to the United Kingdom.
"It is right that the due process of law has taken place in Jordan. The UK courts agreed that Abu Qatada posed a threat to national security in the UK, so we are pleased that we were able to remove him," a spokesman said.
"Abu Qatada remains subject to a deportation order and a United Nations travel ban. He is not coming back to the UK."
Abu Qatada - once described as the right-hand man in Europe of late Al-Qaeda founder Osama bin Laden - was deported from Britain to Jordan in July 2013 after a 10-year legal fight.
Critic of IS jihadists
Despite his detention, Abu Qatada has been outspoken on certain issues, including the brutal jihadists who have overrun swathes of Iraq and Syria in recent weeks.
Speaking to reporters from the dock in court on September 7, Abu Qatada criticised the Islamic State group (IS) for beheading Western journalists, calling the organisation a "killing machine".
In July, Abu Qatada denounced IS for declaring an Islamic "caliphate" in the territory it controls, saying it was "meaningless" because it was not approved by other jihadists.