Abu Qatada costs 'will rise to £3m'

The cost of pursuing the radical preacher Abu Qatada has exceeded £1.4m, and the amount is expected to double during protracted legal wrangling as the Government seeks his deportation to Jordan, the probation service union says.

Abu Qatada, 51, who has been in custody or under surveillance since 2002, has not been charged in Britain and was freed from a top-security jail last week after being held for six-and-a-half years while fighting deportation. The costs include £500,000 in legal fees and £540,000 for keeping him in custody, according to Napo.

Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is seeking a deal that evidence obtained through torture would not be used at a trial in Jordan, where Abu Qatada is wanted on terrorism charges. A judge ordered his release last week after the European Court of Human Rights blocked his deportation because torture evidence may be used against him.

Harry Fletcher, Napo's assistant general secretary, said: "It's extraordinary that the Home Office has spent nearly £1.5m on someone who has never been charged. Legal argument is set to continue for at least two or three years so the costs will double."

Abu Qatada is accused of giving religious legitimacy to terrorists. Tapes of his sermons were discovered in the Hamburg flat used by the 9/11 hijackers. He has lived in Britain since 1993.

Blair Gibbs, of the think-tank Policy Exchange, said the best outcome was deportation but said the "expense and protracted nature of the appeals mechanism means we're talking years".

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