The gifted suspect broken by his indefinite detention

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The Independent Online

It is a work of art that has drawn critical acclaim as well as offers of many thousands of pounds. But it was not created in a traditional school of ceramic art, nor was its creator a highly acclaimed artist.

It is a work of art that has drawn critical acclaim as well as offers of many thousands of pounds. But it was not created in a traditional school of ceramic art, nor was its creator a highly acclaimed artist.

The originator of this pains-takingly fashioned piece of Islamic pottery is in a British top-security prison, a man who has been locked up for nearly three years on the basis of evidence he is not allowed to see.

The man is one of the detainees who were the subject of Thursday's landmark ruling in which law lords decided that their imprisonment without trial is a fundamental breach of our human rights law.

But for B, a single man who arrived in this country seeking political-asylum from Algeria, the judgment has come too late. Six weeks ago, Belmarsh prison suspended its weekly pottery classes where B - he cannot be identified for legal reasons - had spent two years making his giant vase.

"It was the final straw that broke him and soon afterwards he became seriously mentally ill, so ill the has been transferred to Broadmoor," said his solicitor, Gareth Peirce. She is looking after the vase and many other fine pieces of pottery which B made. "It had become a source of great interest in prison and some of the officers had even offered to pay thousands of pounds for it," she said.

B's transfer to Broadmoor has had a devastating impact on the remaining detainees, who had come to rely on him for support during the years. Mrs Peirce said that for some he was their "primary carer". She said: "He fought all of their battles with the prison authorities, but he particularly helped one detainee who is severely disabled. But the strain of all this has had a drastic effect."

B, in his mid-thirties, was arrested in February 2002, two months after the Government brought in emergency anti-terror laws following the 11 September attacks on America. He was the ninth foreign terror suspect "certificated" by the then Home Secretary, David Blunkett. Neither B nor his lawyers have been told what he is accused of. Leaks to the media suggest he allegedly sent communications equipment to Islamic militants and he has twice been jailed for driving offences since his arrival in 1994.

B has had no contact with the outside world apart from visits by his lawyers and has spend between 22 and 23 hours a day locked in his cell. In October, doctors concluded the Belmarsh inmates, including B, were being driven mad by their detention. All had self-harmed and had considered suicide; one had tried. Their report said all eight detainees had "major depressive anxiety disorder" and some post-traumatic stress disorder. Professor Ian Robbins, a clinical psychologist at St George's Hospital, London, who interviewed B and seven fellow detainees, said: "Where they have no control of their own situation this is a sense of mental torture."

He added this was exacerbated by them not knowing why they were detained, and anxiety about their families. Eight foreign terror suspects are in Belmarsh and Woodhill high-security prison in Buckinghamshire. B and two others have been sent to Broadmoor, and G is under house arrest in London. One of the 12 is being held under separate powers. All are free to return to their own countries. "But they know that they face persecution if they go back home and that means they are extremely likely to be tortured or killed," Mrs Peirce said.

She will keep the vase safe until the day she can freely return it to its owner. "It is a quite extraordinary piece. He told me that making it was the one thing that kept him alive."