The security services and the Home Office came under fire yesterday for providing misleading evidence to a secret terror court.
Human rights campaigners said the "intelligence scandal" left a question mark over moves to deport 16 Algerians accused of terrorist links. The information was supplied to the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (Siac), which sits in private and where evidence is examined by security-cleared lawyers called special advocates.
The bungle only came to light by chance when a barrister representing two men discovered that the same MI5 evidence was presented in each case, but used in a contradictory way.
In a stinging rebuke, Mr Justice Newman, who was hearing the Siac cases, said the "administration of justice" had been put at risk in the trial of an Algerian, Abu Doha, and a suspect known as MK, who was later deported to France. Mr Newman said there had been fault on the part of John Reid, the Home Secretary.
The Home Office said its "exceptional" mistake was not due to any systemic failure and steps were being taken to ensure such an error could not occur again.
Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the rights organisation Liberty, demanded a statement by Mr Reid into what she called the "intelligence scandal". She said: "Our worst fear has been realised when Government submits flawed secret intelligence to a commission which will determine if people are to be returned to countries where they could face torture."
Lord Carlile of Berriew, the independent reviewer of anti-terrorism legislation, said he had asked the Home Office for an explanation of what happened in the case. "I look forward to obtaining a better understanding of exactly what occurred," he told BBC Radio 4.
Rick Scannell, who resigned as a special advocate with Siac, said the mistakes by Home Office lawyers called into question the system of terrorist trials.
Siac was branded a "fascist" institution by a Libyan detained at Long Lartin jail in Worcestershire while awaiting extradition for alleged terror offences. In an interview with Islam Channel News, the detainee, known as AS, said: "They use so-called secret evidence. Can you believe our solicitors are not entitled by the rules of this court to look at the evidence against us? So how can we defend ourselves? Everything is based on fabrications."Reuse content