Iranian diplomatic impasse leads to damages ruling

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The Independent Online

Two Iranian nationals are to receive compensation from the Government after a judge decided that both had been unlawfully detained while awaiting deportation for criminal convictions.

The two cases, revealed for the first time yesterday, brought to light "difficulties" the Home Office and UK Border Agency has experienced in obtaining emergency travel documents (ETDs) from the Iranian embassy, and the strained diplomatic relationship between the two countries.

The men, who can only be referred to as "MA" and "TT", served prison sentences for criminal offences before being subjected to immigration detention – MA in 2007 and TT in 2008 – while arrangements were made to deport them.

During a hearing at the High Court in London, judge Ian Dove QC ruled both were entitled to damages, as they had not been issued with ETDs allowing their removal "within a reasonable period".

TT was ordered to be released on bail, subject to conditions including electronic tagging and having to report to the police twice weekly. MA is already on bail.

The ruling could have an impact on other similar cases where Iranians continue to be detained and difficulties are experienced in obtaining travel documents because they lack identity papers, such as passports or ID cards, or the papers have been mislaid.

Graham Denholm, for MA, said the case raised issues "of quite considerable public importance". He said: "There are many Iranian foreign national prisoners detained by the Home Secretary on the basis that travel documents will be produced within a reasonable period."

The evidence considered by the judge included a letter from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, sent on 6 September to address the issues raised in the cases, stating: "Bilateral relations between the UK and Iran have been strained for... years, but have become particularly difficult in the last 12 months."

The judge ordered that damages should now be assessed by a High Court official.

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