Terror suspect would rather face torture than endure UK controls

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The Independent Online

Human rights and Muslim organisations have attacked the Government after a terror suspect disclosed he was prepared to face torture in his home country rather then endure virtual house arrest in Britain. Liberty, the human rights group, said Britain should be "ashamed" that the Algerian man, known only as "A" and who has spent more than four years in either prison or under unprecedented conditions without trial, was prepared to abandon his family and return home to face the risk of torture. The man disclosed over the weekend that he and five other Algerian terror suspects were attempting to negotiate a return to their homeland. He plans to leave his wife and family in Britain, so they can live without the restrictions imposed upon him.

The Home Office had wanted to return the men, and several others, to Algeria, but has been prevented from doing so under the European Convention on Human Rights. The country's poor human rights record includes the use of torture. Talks on a deal securing the humane treatment of the men have stalled amid reports that Algeria has rejected the idea of independent scrutiny.

Mr A was one of a number of suspects arrested in December 2001 under the post-September 11 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act and was held without trial in Belmarsh prison. They challenged their detention in the courts and the House of Lords ruled in December 2004 that the Act was discriminatory against foreigners.

The men were released but placed under very strict control orders under a new Prevention of Terrorism Act. This restricted their movements and access to communications. In August last year, after the London bombings, Mr A was among those arrested under immigration laws and returned to prison, pending deportation. In October, they were bailed under very strict conditions.

Mr A, a father of five, disclosed that the restrictions mean he must stay at home for all but two hours in the early afternoon. He is limited on whom he can meet and how far from his house he can go, while the entire family are barred from telephone and internet access. He said: "I don't want to live like this. I'm useless to my kids, to society and to my community. I can't work, I can't even do the shopping for my wife. If I'm not going to have my freedom in this country then I have to go back. A human being can't take all this."

The suspect said: "Even if there is a risk, I have to take that risk. Here we are not tortured physically, but mentally we are. I am the cause of suffering for my children. Enough is enough."

He plans to stay in the country until July, when his immigration appeal will be heard. His solicitor, Gareth Peirce, said she believed his family "have no life" while he remains in Britain and was willing to sacrifice his safety for their sake. Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "A government must be judged by how it treats its prisoners, not its model citizens, so we must be ashamed indeed when a prisoner begs to take his chances with torture back home."

Abdurahman Jafar, the vice-chairman of the Muslim Council of Britain's legal affairs committee, said: "It's a real tragedy that someone is forced to return to a country where they would be subjected to treatment which will be in breach of the UN Convention on Human Rights."

A Home Office spokesman said individuals on deportation orders were free to leave the country at any time.

Legal trail to hold terror suspects

2001: October 15 - the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act unveiled

December 19 - "A" and eight othersdetained.

2002: July 30 - Special Immigration Appeals Commission rules law is " discriminatory, unlawful and disproportionate''

October 25 - Court of Appeal rules detentions were justifiable

October 29 - Siac upholds Home Secretary's decision on A.

2004: March 18 - Libyan detainee, M, is freed after Lord Chief Justice Lord Woolf rules detention unjustified .

April 22 - Detainee G is bailed due to mental illness

December 16 - Law Lords rule in favour of detainees.

2005: January 19 - Home Secretary Charles Clarke says Britain is negotiating with North African countries allow deportation of terror suspects.

January 26 - Britain plans to scrap ATCSA and replace it with "control orders".

March 11 - Prevention of Terrorism Bill made law.A is put on control order, including curfews, tagging.

July 7 - Suicide bombers kill 52 in London.

August 11 - A and nine others held under immigration rules.

September 2 - First unnamed British citizen put on a control order.

September 15 - Seven more jailed under immigration rules.

October 21 - A and three others win bail under very restrictive conditions amounting to virtualhouse arrest.

2006: March 13 - Siac refuses Charles Clarke more time to prepare for appeal by 17 Algerian terror suspects unlikely that an agreement will be signed before appeals.