Terror suspects lose detention challenge

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The Independent Online

Ten suspected terrorists detained in the UK without charge or trial today lost a Court of Appeal challenge to their internment.

Ten suspected terrorists detained in the UK without charge or trial today lost a Court of Appeal challenge to their internment.

Most of the foreign nationals at the centre of the ruling in London have been held in prisons since 2001.

Two of the ten have exercised their option to leave the UK rather than remain in detention.

The men challenged a ruling of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) that Home Secretary David Blunkett had "sound material" to back up his decision that they were a risk to national security.

Their lawyers had argued that evidence obtained by alleged torture of detainees in US camps should have been excluded by SIAC.

But the appeals were rejected today in a lengthy written ruling by Lord Justice Pill, Lord Justice Laws and Lord Justice Neuberger.

If the appeals had been successful the mens' lawyers would have asked for the individual cases to be reconsidered by SIAC.

Lawyers for the men are now expected to take steps to take the case on to the House of Lords.

The 10 appellants are backed by civil liberties groups, which describes their treatment as "Britain's Guantanamo Bay".

Ben Emmerson QC, for eight of the detainees, argued at a hearing last month that the SIAC was wrong in holding that it was entitled to consider evidence which might have been obtained under torture or ill–treatment at Guantanamo Bay, Bagram airbase in Afghanistan or other US detention centres.

Mr Emmerson said that the use of evidence gathered by torture, even if true, was "morally repugnant" in a democratic society and "an affront to the public conscience".

The appeals stemmed from the terms of the Anti–Terrorism Crime and Security Act, rushed through in 2001 after the September 11 terrorist atrocities in New York and Washington.

Under the emergency powers the Government must show only that it has "reasonable grounds to suspect" that foreign nationals have links to terror before issuing certificates to hold them.

The court heard that two of the eight appellants represented by Mr Emmerson had now exercised their option to leave the UK rather than remain in detention.

One was a Moroccan national who returned home in December 2001, and the other, a French national as well as Algerian, went to France in March 2002.

None of the appellants was certified as being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of international terrorism.

They were certified as being members of, or belonging to, or supporting or assisting, an international terrorist group.

The men's solicitor, Gareth Peirce, later described the judgment as "terrifying".

"It shows that we have completely lost our way in this country legally and morally," she said.

"We have international treaty obligations which prevent the use of evidence obtained by torture in any proceedings.

"What this judgment says by a 2–1 majority is that, if it is obtained by agents of another country and not procured or connived at by UK agents, it is usable without any restriction and there is no obligation on the Secretary of State to inquire into the origins of it."

Ms Peirce pointed out that, while British citizens could not be locked up indefinitely, foreign nationals could be detained on mere suspicion of being a threat to national interests, which could include economic interests as well as security.