Blunkett cleared of contempt claims

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The Independent Online

David Blunkett has been cleared by the Attorney General over allegations that he may have been in contempt of court when he said a man arrested under anti-terrorism laws had connections with groups linked to al-Qa'ida.

Lord Goldsmith said the Home Secretary's remarks after the arrest of Sajid Badat in Gloucester last week did not endanger proceedings against Mr Badat. A statement last night said: "The Attorney General has informed the Home Secretary that he has considered his recent remarks relating to the arrest of a man in Gloucester under the Terrorism Act 2000.

"Having examined all the circumstances in this case, including the time likely to elapse before any trial, his view is that the remarks do not create a substantial risk of serious prejudice to any proceedings, and he does not intend to take any further action."

Mr Blunkett's comments last week provoked protests from politicians and civil rights lawyers who accused the Home Secretary of acting as judge and jury in any forthcoming trial. Dominic Grieve MP, the shadow Attorney General, said he was "astonished" when he heard the Home Secretary's remarks. "This was a piece of populist propaganda that amounted to a pre-judgment of an accused person. He is doing exactly the sort of thing he has condemned the press for, making comments that may be prejudicial to any future trial."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "The Home Secretary should know he can't go around telling the world and his wife someone is guilty before they have even stepped inside court."

Louis Charalambous, the solicitor representing Lotfi Raissi, whose extradition to America on (false) suspicion of training the 11 September hijackers was rejected by a British court, said: "This could have serious ramifications for the trial [of Mr Badat] and could rebound on him."