Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Returning Jihadis May Need to Be Tried in Secret, Warns Terror Watchdog

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Returning Jihadis May Need to Be Tried in Secret, Warns Terror Watchdog

Article excerpt

Byline: Martin Bentham Home Affairs Editor

SOME foreign fighters returning from the conflict in Syria might need to be tried partly in secret to help bring them to justice, Britain's terror watchdog has warned.

Max Hill QC said he would not want a "proliferation" of such trials because of the clash with the principles of open justice.

But he added that following the country's first secret terror trial three years ago in which a man suspected of plotting to kill Tony Blair was prosecuted further "part-closed" prosecutions might be needed.

They would be for cases where there was "heavyweight intelligence" but limited evidence of offending overseas. His comments, in an interview in Germany, highlight the potential challenge faced by British authorities in dealing with the dozens of Islamic State fighters who have yet to return to this country.

Ministers are seeking to ensure that the most notorious the so-called IS Beatles, Alexanda Kotey and El Shafee Elsheikh are tried overseas and stripped of their citizenship in a bid to prevent their return.

However dozens of others will be legally entitled to come back. Mr Hill said he expected that the "vast majority" of these returnees would need to be prosecuted. But to achieve this, he warned, in some cases there might need to be a repeat of the measures used in the landmark trial of Turkish-born London law student Erol Incedal.

At the Old Bailey in 2015 Incedal, 27, was convicted of possessing a bombmaking manual, after a prosecution held largely in secret. During it he was also accused, but cleared, of plotting with an extremist in Syria to kill Tony Blair or carry out a Mumbai-style attack.

Mr Hill said: "We do have one recent precedent case for part-closed proceedings in a criminal court, and therefore there may be an argument that with certain returning fighters yet to come, where there is heavyweight intelligence but a lack of evidence, you could make the case for another Incedal-style criminal charge. …

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