Abu Qatada is moved to secret address after protesters target his home

  • @tompeck

The radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada has, two days after his release from prison, had his request for a new home granted following protests outside his supposedly secret front door. He will leave the £400,000 property in Wembley, north-west London, where his rent is paid by the taxpayer, for a secret address.

In a statement, his barrister Edward Fitzgerald, QC, said: "The family are going to relocate and therefore Mr Qatada would accept the Home Office-approved accommodation."

He refused to say where the cleric would be living but confirmed that the family had asked to be relocated. Qatada is wanted in relation to terrorism offences in his home country, Jordan, and is often described as al-Qa'ida's "right-hand man in Europe".

On Tuesday, a judge ruled that he could neither be permanently imprisoned nor extradited to Jordan, because there was a risk that evidence obtained there under torture could be used against him.

When he was released on bail and taken home to Wembley, protesters had rallied outside his front door, waving placards reading "Get Rid of Abu Qatada". He is allowed to leave his house between 8am and 4pm, and is under 24-hour police surveillance, estimated to cost about £5m a year. With such restrictions in place, getting stuck in traffic must be particularly irksome – which perhaps explains the L-plated motorbike parked outside the house yesterday.

A cursory stroll past his front door suggests that taxpayers might actually be getting decent value for money for their £5m. Marked police cars drive past at least every three minutes. Other officers, on foot, walk past the entrance but do not stop outside. "POLICE LINE DO NOT CROSS" tape hangs from a nearby lamp-post.

When The Independent arrived yesterday afternoon, a white van with a man and two women sat in the front was parked outside. Twenty minutes later, all three had been replaced by a solitary gent in a beanie hat. Coincidence? Possibly.

Qatada's presence has provoked considerable anger among his neighbours for many reasons. Some simply do not want a man they consider to be a terrorist living among them. "We know he's here, we don't want him here," one business owner said. But another resident was more philosophical. "Do I think he should be here? I don't know," he said, declining to give his name.

"It's so complicated isn't it. I've tried to understand it all. I've been reading about it on the internet, but I don't understand. I could say, 'yeah, I don't want him here, take him away' but if he is a threat to this country, maybe it's good that he's sat in the house and we're keeping an eye on him. Better than him being abroad, doing who knows what."