In the Media

Cost of keeping Abu Qatada in Britain 'tops ?3m'

PUBLISHED May 8, 2012

The figure has built up over more than the decade since he was first arrested and is expected to continue to rise despite attempts by the Home Office to deport him.

The bill includes £825,000 in government legal bills since 2002 and a matching sum for Qatada's legal aid and court costs.

The country has spent a further £850,000 to keep him in a maximum security prison and £500,000 on police surveillance, according to the figures revealed by the Daily Mail.

Other miscellaneous amounts, including money spent on benefits and compensation for the cleric are estimated to total a further £200,000.

Jonathan Isaby, of the TaxPayers' Alliance, told the newspaper: "Taxpayers will be angry and dismayed by this latest estimate of the cost.

"By blocking Qatada's deportation the European Court of Human Rights is forcing taxpayers to continue coughing up for this vile hate preacher."

Qatada, who was once described as "Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe", is currently awaiting a decision from the European Court of Human Rights as to whether his application for appeal against deportation should be heard by the Grand Chamber.

On Wednesday, a panel of five judges will make a decision on his latest attempt to avoid deportation to his homeland of Jordan.

The appeal follows his arrest on April 17, when he was brought before a tribunal to begin a new deportation process after Home Secretary Theresa May received "assurances" about his treatment.

She believed the three-month deadline for appeals by either party to Strasbourg had been midnight on April 16th, so she was free to start new proceedings against him.

But the following day it emerged that Abu Qatada's lawyers had submitted an appeal to the ECHR late on April 17th, derailing the deportation attempt and humiliating the Home Secretary, who had spent the evening before at a party.

Mrs May was forced to face the Commons and then the Home Affairs Select Committee, where she faced accusations that her department could not read a calendar properly.

She has insisted that the appeal was made out of time, but that the ECHR panel has the discretion to consider it regardless.

However the Home Secretary has repeatedly refused to state if her officials had anything in writing to say when the deadline was.

If the ECHR decides that Abu Qatada's appeal should be heard at the highest level by the Grand Chamber, any decision could be up to a year away.

The 51-year-old is currently in Belmarsh jail in south London but could be freed again within weeks if immigration judges decide his departure is not imminent.

In March this year, Qatada was reported to have told relatives he was the "happiest man in England" after he was upgraded to a larger taxpayer-funded home after being released from jail.

Speaking from his home in Jordan, Qatada's brother, Ibrahim Othman, said: "He is really enjoying his new home and so are his family. The inside is very modern and has been done up more nicely, it has more bedrooms and a larger garden.

"It is better for the family. They are all very happy in the larger house."

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said they could not confirm the figures.