Terror suspects' trials are 'unfair' , say judges

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The Independent Online

The secret hearings into the jailing of 11 alleged foreign terrorists are unfair to the defendants, the senior judges overseeing the hearings have admitted.

The judges have claimed the men - all detained without charge as alleged members of al-Qa'ida under emergency powers - are at a clear disadvantage because they have been unable to see the secret evidence and allegations used against them.

Their admissions, revealed last week in a series of previously closed court judgments released under the Freedom of Information Act, will be seized on by campaigners who say the detainees have been illegally and unjustly jailed.

In December, nine Law Lords made an unprecedented attack on the Government's decision - in the wake of September 11 - to imprison 14 alleged terrorists without charge by suspending parts of the Human Rights Act. David Blunkett, the then Home Secretary, claimed the men are all threats to national security.

Judges on the Special Immigration Appeals Commission have largely backed the Government because the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 requires the test of "reasonable suspicion" - not the standard of proof needed for a criminal court.

But in their judgments on the 11 cases, they hint strongly they have deep misgivings about the men's inability to see the claims against them.

Lawyers are pinning their hopes on a bail hearing due later this month, where SIAC's chairman, Mr Justice Ouseley, has indicated he will consider releasing the men after the Law Lords ruling last year.