Prize for Most Blatant Interference in the Judicial Process Goes to ... UK Minister

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BYLINE: Carmel Rickard

MOVE over John Hlophe; you've more than met your match.

I thought claims that Judge President Hlophe had tried to influence the outcome of a Constitutional Court decision were illustrative of the last word in legal cheek. But I was wrong.

That contest has to go to British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, who with his counsel, leading barrister Jonathan Sumption QC, has shocked that country's legal and political community.

Sumption is held in awe by colleagues, who say he has "a brain the size of a planet". He's also said to be one of the few barristers who can influence a case simply by his presence in court.

Now, however, it turns out he can also influence decisions without even being in court.

Sumption is appearing for Miliband in a protracted series of cases concerning an Ethiopian-born Briton, Binyam Mohamed, held on suspicion of terrorism by the US for six years. Since his release without charge by the US and return to England last year, he has tried to prove he was tortured and that British MI5 was involved in it.

As evidence of his torture and MI5 collusion has emerged, Miliband and the security establishment have desperately tried to co-opt the courts in attempts at a cover-up.

Things appeared to have reached a climax last week. The government had tried to keep seven paragraphs about Mohamed's torture out of a High Court judgment, citing security concerns, but three senior judges of the Court of Appeal dismissed the government's argument that secrecy should prevail. They found no reason why the information, confirming sleep deprivation and other torture methods, should not be included in the judgment text.

The nature of his "treatment" was already in the public domain, they ruled, following publication of a decision by a US judge who bluntly said Mohamed was "tortured".

She found he was beaten with a leather strap; subjected to a mock execution by shooting; beaten, punched and kicked to the extent that he vomited and urinated; and tied to a wall and left hanging in darkness listening to other prisoners screaming. For more than a year, and about once a month, he was cut on his chest, penis and testicles with a scalpel.

After this was published, why censor a British judgment on the same subject?

But just at this turning point it was discovered that the appeal court decision had itself been targeted: the government had secretly tried to edit this judgment as well. …