Terror suspect reveals the daily misery of life under control order

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The Independent Online

Esra Abu Rideh is just like any other nine-year-old tomboy growing up in west London. Her favourite game is playing football in the garden with her three brothers, and she claims to be Chelsea's biggest fan.

But in the past 12 months Esra's life has become terrifyingly different to every other child living in Britain.

Her home has been raided by the police at least 30 times, friends are too afraid to visit because their parents have to first surrender their passports to Home Office officials, and now Esra has been banned from using the internet. It is this last deprivation that causes Esra and her sister, Nadeen, 10, the most anxiety: "How can we do our homework properly - all the other kids get help on the internet but we have to write it all out from our heads. Why do we have to suffer like this? What have we done?"

The answer to Esra's question is simple. She happens to be the daughter of Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a man the British Government has identified as someone with links to international terrorism. But in the five years since the allegation was first made he has not been allowed to see a single piece of incriminatory evidence.

Neither, say his lawyers, has he been interrogated by the security services about any of the allegations.

Mahmoud Abu Rideh, 34, was born in Jordan to Palestinian refugee parents. He came to the UK in January 1995, and in 1998 was granted refugee status after he showed that he had been tortured by the Jordanian security services.

He has always maintained that he has no links to any terrorist groups and all his activities have based around charity work. But in 2001, in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in the US, Mr Abu Rideh was one of 17 men rounded up by police and imprisoned without trial.

Separated from his wife and five children, the conditions of his incarceration triggered flashbacks of his torture in Jordan, and he suffered post-traumatic stress. Soon afterwards he made at least three attempts to kill himself before he was transferred to Broadmoor high-security psychiatric hospital in Berkshire.

Then in December last year, the House of Lords, in a historic judgment, ruled that indefinite detention was in breach of the men's human rights.

Last year Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, responded to that judgment by releasing nine of the men and then placing them under house arrest.

For Mahmoud abu Rideh it has proved to be a draconian measure that has been made worse because it also punishes his wife and five children. The terms of the control order with which he must comply means that he is not allowed to leave his home between 7pm and 7am, and each night he must telephone a special number between 3am and 4am. Failure to do so will trigger a police raid. "This is a very terrible thing. I have to go to bed with five alarm clocks, but because I am on medication for my mental health problems I sometimes don't wake up."

He says that in the past year he has slept through the alarms 30 times. "Then the police come banging on the door, wearing armour to stop knives. They rush in the house and tell me I have broken the control order. I tell them that I was so much asleep that my wife couldn't even wake me, but they still say I am going back to prison and I will never see my children again. They are all the time playing games with my mind."

Nadeen says the arrival of the police in the middle of the night is a terrifying experience. "They come in and search our rooms and turn over the bedclothes and look in the drawers."

Nadeen only has questions now. "Why is Tony Blair doing this to my Dad? Why doesn't he leave him alone? What has he done to him? I don't want to live in this country any more - I want to go to Palestine where at least I will be safe."

Mr Abu Rideh says he has asked the Government to allow him to return to Palestine but he hasn't received a reply. Last week he thought he was about to be free from this nightmare when the conditions of his house arrest were due to be lifted. But on Friday he was approached by officers who served him with another year's extension to his order.

"I thought I was free but it looks like the hell will continue," he said.

In his desperation to find help he visited the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday and sat in the Commons' public gallery during a debate. The Labour peer Lord Ahmed escorted Mr Abu Rideh during part of his visit.

Lord Ahmed said he offered to see Mr Abu Rideh in his office in the House of Lords after meeting him at Regent's Park Mosque.

Mr Abu Rideh said: "I don't want to embarrass Lord Ahmed. but I have no choice. I have to speak to anyone who might be able to help. I just want to help my family. All Tony Blair has to do is let us leave this country for Palestine. Why can't he do that?"

Abu Rideh's background

* 1972: Mahmoud Abu Rideh born to stateless Palestinian parents in Jordan.

* 1995 Comes to Britain and claims asylum. He told officials he had been imprisoned in his homeland "because I am religious and I pray".

* 1996 Immigration officials refuse to grant him asylum.

* 1998 Granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

* 2001 Arrested on 19 December by anti-terrorist police, accused of being involved in fundraising and distribution of money for terror groups linked to al-Qai'da.

After his arrest, Mr Abu Rideh was held at Belmarsh prison in south-east London.

* 2002 July Transferred to Broadmoor hospital (above).

* 2005 January Granted bail by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

* 2005 March Home Secretary signed his control order to put him under house arrest.

* 2006 March Control order is extended for another year.