Judges Refuse to Be Swayed by Politicians' Terrorism Warnings ; ANALYSIS Tribunal's Rejection of Security Law Halts Indefinite Detention of Suspects

By Burrell, Ian | The Independent (London, England), July 31, 2002 | Go to article overview
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Judges Refuse to Be Swayed by Politicians' Terrorism Warnings ; ANALYSIS Tribunal's Rejection of Security Law Halts Indefinite Detention of Suspects


Burrell, Ian, The Independent (London, England)


CONFINED TO a wheelchair and suffering from severe mental illness, Mahmoud Abu Rideh is close to death in the hospital wing of one of Britain's highest-security jails.

Psychiatrists who come from Broadmoor special hospital to visit him at Belmarsh prison, south London, believe that after a three- month hunger strike he is at serious risk of dying in custody.

The 30-year-old Palestinian has not been charged but is locked up because he has been deemed by the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, to be a "risk to national security".

Mr Abu Rideh was one of 11 men who were interned under the Anti- Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, which was rushed through Parliament after the attacks of 11 September.

For up to 223 days, the men have been designated Category A prisoners and held under the strictest conditions without being told the nature of the allegations against them. The suspects' lawyers complain that the 11 are kept in their cells for up to 22 hours a day.

British intelligence views the suspects as dangerous fundamentalists who cannot be charged because of a lack of admissible evidence that will not compromise sources.

Yesterday, the Special Immigration Appeal Commission ruled that the men's detention under the emergency legislation was unlawful because the special powers discriminated against foreign nationals.

A spokesman for Amnesty International said the suspects should be released, but the Home Office said the suspects would remain in jail while the ruling was appealed.

The controversy has raised further questions over the real and perceived threat to Britain from al-Qa'ida and other terrorist groups. Politicianshave talked up the danger only to be undermined by the British courts, which have judged their evidence against suspects to be insubstantial or their proposed powers for dealing with threats to be inappropriate.

Earlier this week, attempts by the US government to extradite from Britain a London bookseller, Yasser al-Siri, collapsed after Mr Blunkett decided there was insufficient evidence against him.

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