Abu Qatada awarded £2,500 for detention

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The Independent Online

Radical preacher Abu Qatada was awarded £2,500 cash compensation today by European judges who ruled that his detention without trial breached his human rights.

Yesterday Qatada lost the latest round of his UK legal battle to stay in Britain.

But 24 hours later he won a separate case in the European Court of Human Rights that his detention under anti-terror laws introduced by the Government after the 2001 attacks on America violated the Human Rights Convention.

Ten others detainees under the rules - none named by the court - also received similar modest cash awards. The human rights judges said the amounts were "substantially lower" than awards granted in previous cases of "unlawful detention".

This was "in view of the fact that the detention scheme (the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001) was devised in the face of a public emergency, and as an attempt to reconcile the need to protect the UK public against terrorism with the obligation not to send the applicants back to countries where they faced a real risk of ill-treatment".

Qatada and the 10 others were rounded up in the wake of a perceived new post-2001 terror threat.

But the Human Rights Court said the terms of the detention, even allowing for the special circumstances, violated three provisions of the Human Rights Convention - the right to liberty and security, the right to have the lawfulness of detention decided by a court and the right to compensation for unlawful detention.

But the judges rejected a fourth complaint, declaring that the detention of Qatada and the others did not amount to a violation of a Human Rights Convention ban on "torture and inhuman or degrading treatment".

Today's ruling acknowledged that at the time of the detentions, "there had been a public emergency threatening the life of the nation".

But it said the issue was whether the legal measures adopted by the Government in response were "strictly required by the exigencies of the situation".

The judges said when someone is detained on the basis of "an allegedly reasonable suspicion of unlawful behaviour", that person must be given an opportunity effectively to challenge the allegations.

At the time the Government considered there was an urgent need to protect the UK population from terrorist attack and a strong public interest in obtaining information about al-Qaida and its associates, and keeping the sources of such information secret.

But balanced against that, went on the judges, was the detainees' rights to "procedural fairness".

The human rights judges said the suspects' conditions of detention had not reached the "high threshold" of inhuman and degrading treatment for which a human rights violation could be found.

However, the rules had "discriminated unjustifiably" between UK nationals and non-nationals - targeting only non-UK citizens.

Qatada was first detained in 2002, when the UK's Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) described him as a "truly dangerous individual".

The Siac said he had given religious authority to numerous high-profile terrorists across the world, including those behind the September 11 attacks.

The 48-year old father of five, who came to Britain in 1993 on a forged passport, was later bailed, but placed under a control order. In 2005 he was arrested in preparation for his deportation to Jordan, but was again released on appeal.

He was returned to jail last November and remains in Belmarsh high security prison.