Detained Libyan wins release order

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The Independent Online

Judges ordered the release yesterday of a Libyan man who has been detained for 16 months without charge under the Government's anti-terrorism powers.

But the unnamed 37-year-old remained in Belmarsh maximum security prison last night after the Home Secretary, David Blunkett, launched an appeal.

The detainee, known as M, is one of 13 people held under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, and is the first to appeal successfully against his detention. He was first incarcerated in November 2002. The Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) found that there was "no reasonable suspicion" justifying the continuing detention of the man.

After Home Office representations in the wake of the case, a High Court judge granted a 24-hour extension to M's detention and the case will return to the court today. The bad news for the Government came before Mr Blunkett announced, in Massachusetts last night, that the five Guantanamo Bay British terror suspects returning to the UK would arrive within 24 hours. Police files on Rhuhel Ahmed, Tarek Dergoul, Jamal al-Harith, Asif Iqbal and Shafiq Rasul will be passed to the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ken Macdonald QC, said sources at the Crown Prosecution Service.

The Home Office was disappointed with the commission's decision. It said: "Of the appeals heard by SIAC to date, 12 out of 13 have been upheld. We are disappointed with today's determination in the case of M and are seeking leave to appeal."

The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, introduced in the aftermath of the 11 September attacks, allows for the detention without charge of foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism whom the Government are unable to deport.The Government claimed the Act had been used "sparingly" and "only in the most serious circumstances".

"Those detained are free to leave [return to their country of origin] voluntarily at any time and two have done so," the Home Office said.

It is believed that M, after joining the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group to oppose the regime of Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, came to Britain and had several asylum applications rejected, though he was never deported.

One of the three judges involved in the SIAC ruling, Mr Justice Collins, criticised the Government for its detention of M yesterday. He said some assertions made in statements provided by the Home Secretary were "clearly misleading".