Abu Qatada, a radical Islamist preacher, was released from jail in the UK last week. He had been held as a prisoner for more than six years. His release from prison hardly gave him his freedom though. Under a daily 22 hour curfew, with severe restrictions and monitoring in place, Qatada waits as the UK keep the deportation dialogue necessary with Jordan open.
It is claimed that should Qatada be returned to Jordan, where he is wanted to face criminal charges, he could be the subject of torture. Whether this would happen is up for debate but this report is about the cost of keeping Qatada in the UK.
His deportation was prevented by the European Court of Human Rights and without reassurances regarding his personal safety the man is not going anywhere. One has to wonder if France, for example, would have put up with this situation, and if so for as long as the UK? Mr Qatada has been in the UK since 1993 when he claimed asylum. After 9/11 he came firmly on the radar of British Intelligence services and ultimately he was arrested for his militant sermons and more.
So the cost of all this.
Qatada cost the British penal system when he was held in jail. His family were supported by the British taxpayer during his time in jail. Now he is home, albeit under a strict curfew, the mounting costs continue. His assets said to be in excess of £120,000 are frozen. This means that he, his wife and his children are all being supported by the state. Educational needs and health care will be paid for by the good old British public.
Home Secretary Theresa May is planning on visiting Jordan in an effort to secure a deportation deal. More expense, this time wages and travelling costs. The Prince of Jordan has already said that his country cannot make any assurances regarding torture and Qatada. Some in the UK believe that Great Britain could simply choose to ignore the ECHR decision if they wanted to. May's Jordanian visit is a follow on to one by Home Office minister James Brokenshire earlier in February. More expense then. Currently the security bill for ensuring that Qatada poses no threat to the UK is reidculously high.
All in all it is fair to say the ECHR decision is costing the UK taxpayer dearly. The latest estimate is that it will cost us at least £10,000 a week. Qatada's London address has obviously not been revealed to the public but it has been reported that the house is valued at over £400,000.
The deportation of Abu Qatada leaves a lot to be desired. The cost to the UK in such austere times seems ridiculous.Settling the case of Abu Qatada once and for all must surely be a UK government priority?
Eileen Kersey manages TEK Staff Blog