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Huge bill to let Abu Hamza preach By Sean O'Neill (Filed: 18/10/2003)
Hundreds of thousands of pounds of public money is being spent facilitating the delivery of public sermons by Abu Hamza, the Islamic extremist whose British citizenship David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, is trying to revoke.
Police in north London have entered into an agreement with Hamza to block off a road and allow him to preach to his followers in the street every Friday.
Each week at least 12 officers are on duty outside Finsbury Park mosque, which has been closed and boarded up since a police raid in January, as Hamza preaches and prays. The cost of policing is set to rise steeply because Hamza's citizenship hearing before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission has been delayed until next April, 12 months after Mr Blunkett announced he was taking action.
The delay has occurred despite the fact that Hamza is the only person facing proceedings under the legislation whereby people can be stripped of their citizenship for behaviour "seriously prejudicial" to British interests.
Yesterday more than 150 people gathered to hear the Egyptian-born cleric describe Israel as a criminal state, attack the media as Zionist and denounce Western politicians as corrupt homosexuals. As Hamza arrived in his C-registered Mercedes around 1pm, officers closed St Thomas's Road to traffic using barriers and police tape.
Police then assisted Hamza's followers, some masked, in stewarding the meeting by keeping photographers and cameramen behind the barricade.
The offence of obstructing the highway was ignored and there was no police interpreter present as he began preaching in Arabic.
The gathering lasted for more than an hour after which Hamza sat in an armchair on the pavement as his followers queued to embrace him and have private conversations.
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