Five arrests take total of foreigners held for 'national security' to 22

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The Independent Online

Five foreign terror suspects are being held in prison under immigration laws after being arrested yesterday in dawn raids across Britain.

The unnamed men, all Muslims, are being detained by the Home Secretary because he says their presence represents a threat to national security. Three were detained in the West Midlands, one in London and one in Cardiff. All five are thought to come from north Africa.

The raids are the latest in a series of security clamp-downs in the wake of the London bombings in July. Ten men were detained for deportation in August, including the radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, a Jordanian who has been described by a number of western governments as al-Qa'ida's "spiritual ambassador in Europe".

Two weeks ago seven more suspected terrorists were detained. They included at least three Algerians who were, earlier this year, cleared of involvement in a plot to use the poison ricin in London.

The five men who were arrested yesterday are being held at Long Lartin Prison, Worcestershire, under the Immigration Act with a view to returning them to their countries of origin as soon as possible.

The deportations await, however, assurances from the men's countries that they won't face torture upon their return.

Under the European Convention on Human Rights no one can be forcibly sent to a country where they face the risk of torture. The government has already signed an agreement with Jordan and is close to reaching similar understanding with Algeria.

The men's lawyers have promised to challenge these "memoranda of understanding" in the UK courts because they claim they do not provide adequate safeguards.

In a separate move the Government is pursuing legal action at the European Court of Human Rights where it hopes to create exceptions for deportations to countries that have a record of using torture or other forms of abusive or degrading treatment. The court is allowing the UK to act as a third party in a case brought against the Netherlands by an Algerian, Mohammed Ramzy, 22, who is challenging its attempt to deport him after being acquitted of involvement in terrorist activity.