Blunkett vows to tighten law after terror suspect is freed

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The Independent Online

David Blunkett promised yesterday to bring in new laws to stop judges releasing known terror suspects.

David Blunkett promised yesterday to bring in new laws to stop judges releasing known terror suspects.

The Home Secretary made his pledge amid growing government anger over a court's decision to release an Algerian terror suspect from prison on mental health grounds. Mr Blunkett described the ruling of the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (SIAC) as "extraordinary". He said: "I have not called it bonkers, but no doubt other people will."

The Algerian man, thought to have "actively assisted" terrorists linked to the al-Qa'ida network, was freed on Thursday night from Belmarsh high-security prison in south-east London.

Known only as "G", he was released after the SIAC accepted that his continuing detention under Mr Blunkett's controversial anti-terror laws was prolonging his illness.

Lawyers for the remaining 12 foreign terror suspects held in Britain under the emergency legislation are now expected to make similar bail applications on behalf of their clients who have been locked up for nearly two years without knowing with what they are charged.

The Government has acted quickly to close what ministers regard as a legislative loophole. A Home Office spokesman confirmed that ministers had tabled amendments to the Asylum and Immigration Bill which would give the Government a new right of appeal against decisions to grant bail to terror suspects. A separate amendment makes it compulsory for anyone granted bail in similar circumstances to be fitted with an electronic tag.

Mr Blunkett said he would be seeking a change in the law to prevent a recurrence of the legal challenge, which in effect left the 35-year-old under house arrest. "Allowing someone like this out on bail is an extraordinary decision, which puts massive pressure on our anti-terror and security services and sends a very different signal to the one we have been sending," he said.

The SIAC hearing was told that the Algerian suspect, who suffers from polio, had become psychotic since his detention in December 2001. But Mr Blunkett said medical experts who assessed G had concluded that he did not require psychiatric accommodation. He said he had discussed the issue with the Prime Minister and wanted a legal shake-up which would enable him to appeal against such decisions to a higher court. "We believe that people who do pose a risk should be in secure accommodation," he added.

Gareth Peirce, G's solicitor, said after the hearing: "The Home Secretary has tried to stop this man from getting out and getting sane. He drove this man to madness. This is not what should happen in a civilised society." Mark Oaten, home affairs spokesman for the Liberal Democrats, called for alternatives to the powers of indefinite detention.