Bid to deport radical cleric costs Britain $2.7m so far

Britain's legal fight to deport Jordanian terror suspect Abu Qatada has cost more than £1.7 million ($2.7 million, two million euros) since 2005, the interior minister said Friday.

Home Secretary Theresa May said the £1,716,306 total includes more than £1 million in Home Office costs and nearly £650,000 in the Islamist cleric's legal fees.

Abu Qatada has been in and out of British prisons since 2002 as he fights successive government attempts to send him to Jordan, where he has been convicted of terror charges in his absence.

To ministers' horror he was released from his latest stint in jail in November, but was arrested again in March for allegedly breaching his bail conditions.

A judge at Britain's Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) ruled last month that the preacher, once dubbed Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in Europe, should remain in custody.

In a surprise move in May, Abu Qatada's lawyer told the court that the preacher would return to Jordan voluntarily if its parliament ratifies a treaty with Britain barring the use of evidence obtained by torture.

The issue is at the heart of Britain's long struggle to deport him to Jordan, where he faces a likely retrial over his alleged involvement in the planning of terror attacks.

Britain expects the treaty to be ratified by June 21. It has been approved by both houses of the Jordanian parliament but still needs to be signed off by King Abdullah II.

May revealed the legal cost figures Friday in a letter to parliament's Home Affairs Select Committee scrutiny panel.

Committee chairman Keith Vaz said he was "shocked" by the amount.

He said the treaty should be ratified as soon as possible before the bill rises any further.

"I am glad that the king of Jordan is visiting parliament in the near future. He would be welcome to take Mr Qatada back with him," he added.

Matthew Sinclair, chief executive of the TaxPayers' Alliance pressure group, said: "Taxpayers will be disgusted at the amount of their cash that this vile hate preacher has cost us.

"This protracted saga underlines the need for urgent reform of human rights legislation."