Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Judges Rule That Holding of Nine Al Qaeda Suspects Is Illegal

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Judges Rule That Holding of Nine Al Qaeda Suspects Is Illegal

Article excerpt


ANTITERRORIST measures brought in after 11 September suffered a serious blow today as nine terrorist suspects being held in jail without trial won a dramatic legal victory.

Three senior judges ruled that the new power to lock up people indefinitely without charge or trial is discriminatory because it only applies to foreigners and not Britons.

The judges said the Government was entitled to opt out of its human rights obligation to protect people against detention without trial, because the UK faced a state of "public emergency threatening the life of the nation" after 11 September.

But the panel - the Special Immigration Appeals Commission headed by Mr Justice Collins - also said the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, rushed through Parliament in December, was unlawful, discriminatory, and disproportionate.

The judgment will prompt demands for the nine men, currently in two highsecurity prisons, to be freed.

But the Home Office said they were being held on "detailed and compelling evidence" of their involvement in international terrorism and would not be freed.

Home Secretary David Blunkett, out of the country on holiday, will appeal against today's judgment, while all nine of the detainees will have appeals heard in the Autumn.

Delivering the judgment this afternoon, Mr Justice Collins said: "The Act permits the detention of non-British citizens alone, and it is quite clear from the evidence before us that there are British citizens who are likely to be as dangerous as non-British citizens and who have been involved with al Qaeda or organisations linked to it.

"It is not only discriminatory and so unlawful under Article 14 to target non-British citizens, but also it is disproportionate."

John Wadham, director of campaign group Liberty, which brought today's challenge, said: "This leaves the emergency laws in tatters because they thought they could detain people without trial."

But a Home Office statement said: "The court's finding does not make the detention unlawful, and the individuals will not be released as a result of this judgment. …

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