Terror suspect Hilal Al-Jedda in nationality win
Thursday 29 March 2012
A terror suspect has come a step closer to returning to the UK after winning a Court of Appeal battle against the Government's decision to strip him of his British nationality.
Hilal Al-Jedda was detained without trial or access to the courts for three years by British forces in Iraq and later went to live with his family in Turkey.
The father-of-six was first detained in Baghdad in October 2004 on suspicion of being involved in weapons smuggling and attacks with explosives.
Al-Jedda, 54, could not return to the UK after being deprived of his citizenship.
However today, three appeal judges "reluctantly" but unanimously decided the decision to strip him of British nationality was fatally flawed - because it makes him stateless - and must be quashed.
The court said the quashing order would be put on hold to give Home Secretary Theresa May time to consider challenging today's ruling in the Supreme Court, the highest court in the land.
Al-Jedda fled from Iraq to the UK in 1992 as a refugee from Saddam Hussein's regime.
He won asylum and in 2000 was granted British nationality.
But he returned to Iraq in 2004 where he came under suspicion of involvement in terrorism.
He was initially detained by American troops before being handed over to UK forces at the Shaibah Divisional Detention Facility, Basra.
He was stripped of British nationality "for the public good" in December 2007 by the then Home Secretary Jacqui Smith, and her order was later upheld by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC).
The appeal court was told Al-Jedda wants to return to the UK but is prevented by his loss of citizenship.
Today appeal judges Lord Justice Richards, Lord Justice Stanley Burnton and Lord Justice Gross reluctantly raised his hopes of achieving his aim when they said they had "no choice" but to allow his appeal.
Lord Justice Richards said: "In one way that result is deeply unsatisfactory, in that the Secretary of State is satisfied, for reasons upheld by SIAC, that to deprive the appellant of his British nationality is conducive to the public good."
But, said the judge, it had to be borne firmly in mind that the British Government had taken the positive step of granting him British nationality in 2000 - and that Parliament had legislated "in clear terms" that a person could not be deprived of British nationality if the move would make that person stateless.
The judge said:"It appears that at the time of making the order the Secretary of State was unaware that the grant of British nationality to the appellant had caused him to lose his Iraqi nationality, and that the issue of statelessness was therefore not given the consideration it would otherwise have been given."
Lord Justice Stanley Burnton agreed the appeal had to be allowed but said it was a conclusion he had reached reluctantly.
He added that if the Government had retained the right, conferred by the original provisions of the British Nationality Act 1981, to remove a person's UK nationality on the ground that he had shown himself to be disloyal or disaffected to the Crown, the result of the case might well have been very different.
For reasons of which the court was unaware, that right was abolished when the 1981 Act was amended in 2002, said the judge.
Lord Justice Gross expressed "great reluctance" to allow the appeal but said he was driven to do so, even though Al-Jedda's case was "conspicuously lacking in merit and where the Secretary of State has determined that depriving the appellant of his British nationality is conducive to the public good."
However the 1981 Act "leaves no scope for the exercise of any discretion."
Al-Jedda was born in Kirkuk, Iraq, in 1957. He was given refugee status in the UK in 1994 after fleeing Saddam Hussein's regime in 1992. British nationality was granted on June 12 2000.
But he returned to Iraq via Dubai in 2004. He was interned because it was believed that he had recruited and aided terrorists, including a terrorist explosives expert known as Mounir, with a view to committing atrocities in Iraq.
In particular, he was suspected of conspiring with Mounir to attack coalition forces in the aftermath of the invasion to end Saddam Hussein's regime, using improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
British intelligence services also believed he had conspired with Mounir and members of an Islamic terrorist cell in the Gulf to smuggle hi-tech detonation equipment for IEDs into Iraq.
Al-Jedda unsuccessfully challenged the legal basis for his detention twice, his first case going all the way to the House of Lords, then the UK's highest court.
He was released from detention without charge on December 30 2007 and travelled to Turkey the following January, where he was joined by his third wife and some of his children.
Lord Justice Richards said when Al-Jedda first came to the UK he had Iraqi nationality.
The effect of granting him British nationality was that, under Iraqi law at that time, he lost his Iraqi nationality.
The question arose whether his Iraqi nationality had been automatically restored to him by legislation that followed the occupation of Iraq by coalition forces in 2003.
When the case came before SIAC, the commission found that it had been automatically restored.
But SIAC had erred in law, said the judge, and it was not restored automatically - "and since he did not make an application for its restoration, he did not become an Iraqi citizen".
The judge ruled: "I am satisfied that in this case the appellant has proved to the requisite standard that at the time of the Secretary of State's order (removing British nationality) he was not considered as a national by the state of Iraq under the operation of Iraqi law, even though it would have been open to him, and would still be open to him, to make an application for the restoration of Iraqi nationality under that law.
"There is no suggestion that he was considered as a national by any other state save the United Kingdom.
"In those circumstances the order depriving him of his British citizenship plainly made him stateless.
"For the reasons I have given I would allow the appeal and quash the Secretary of State's order depriving the appellant of his British nationality."
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