Abu Qatada, the extremist cleric, will be back on the streets of Britain today and allowed to roam free for eight hours a day after a court ruled he cannot be deported.
The decision means that the security services and police will now have to watch him around the clock in a surveillance operation that is likely to cost the taxpayer more than £5 million a year.
Well, you see, here’s the problem.
Being an extremist cleric is not a crime.
Plotting to blow people up is. Incitement to violence is. Terrorism is (unless you win in which case you’re a freedom fighter).
And we’ve this system that tries to determine whether you have indeed been plotting to blow people up, inciting violence, being a terrorist. It’s called the legal system. It involves such things as evidence, testimony, judges, juries. Someone accuses you, the police investigate, the evidence is discussed in court, you get a chance to refute it, then some combination of the judges and or a jury decides whether you’re guilty of that specific crime or not.
You can be banged up in prison if you’ve been found guilty through such a process. You can also be banged up if said process is ongoing and there’s a worry that you’ll run away or that you’ll nobble witnesses.
And that’s about it really. You can’t be banged up because you’re an extremist cleric. And Mr. Abu hasn’t been convicted of anything that actually is a crime…..or if he has he’s already served his just and righteous sentence. As for running away, rather the problem is that he’s refusing to do so. And he can’t nobble witnesses as he’s not even being charged with anything in this country.
So, free to walk the streets indeed.
On the other hand we are pretty sure he’s a bad ‘un. So keeping an eye on him to see whether he is inciting to violence etc. seems reasonable enough. We get to bang him up if we can prove, to the standards that the law requires, that he has committed a crime in this green and pleasant land.
As to the £5 million. Shrug. That’s just the price that has to be paid to prove the contention that you cannot be locked up just because you’re an extremist cleric. Nor just because there’s a general feeling that you’re a bad ‘un. And £5 million a year to protect all 65 million of us from that seems cheap at the price.