Palestinians' appeal over embassy bombing begins

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The Independent Online

The appeal against the convictions of two Palestinians for their involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Israeli embassy in London began yesterday, with the Home Secretary being accused of suppressing information which could free the pair.

The appeal against the convictions of two Palestinians for their involvement in the 1994 bombing of the Israeli embassy in London began yesterday, with the Home Secretary being accused of suppressing information which could free the pair.

In what is believed to be the first case of a challenge under the Human Rights Act to the Government's use of "public-interest immunity" certificates, lawyers for Samar Alami and Jawad Botmeh claimed the "gagging orders" that were issued on grounds of national security were a breach of their clients' right to justice.

The case of Alami and Jawad, both serving 20-year prison sentences, had become an international cause célÿbre, with allegations of involvement of the Israeli and Iranian intelligence services in the attacks.

Petitions in the Middle East had attracted 200,000 signatures, while 60 members of the Palestinian legislature as well as British MPs had joined the campaign on their behalf. Amnesty International also expressed concern that the charges against the two might have been politically motivated.

Alami and Botmeh sat in the dock flanked by prison officers, intently listening to the proceedings and taking notes.

Alami, the 33-year-old daughter of a banker, wore a grey checked jacket and looked pale and strained. Botmeh, 31, a former entrepreneur in a dark grey shirt and gold-rimmed glasses, looked repeatedly around the packed room at the High Court in London.

The pair, both graduates of English universities and British citizens, had been involved in Palestinian politics in their exile. They had, according to the prosecution in their trial, carried out the bombings using cars packed with explosives in an attempt to derail the peace agreement between Israel and the Palestinians, then blossoming. The Crown claimed they were an autonomous cell that worked independently.

Michael Mansfield QC, for Alami and Botmeh, told Lord Justice Rose, Mr Justice Hooper and Mr Justice Goldring that they should examine the material covered by the public-interest immunity certificates and that representatives for the defence should be allowed into the hearing regarding the material, a departure from the current procedure in which the prosecution only is present.

A failure to ensure defence representation would, he maintained, be a breach of the Human Rights Act.

Mr Mansfield also said that recent revelations by the former MI5 officer David Shayler could shed light on who carried out the bombings at the embassy and a Zionist charity.

The case continues.