Letters: Qatada - a triumph for the rule of law


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The Independent Online

The release on bail of Abu Qatada, the extremist Islamic preacher, has provoked the predictable outrage from the Tory right in Parliament. These MPs forget the fundamental fact that in this country we live under the rule of law. People go to prison for breaking the law.

Abu Qatada has been in prison for nine years without ever having been charged with any UK terrorist or other offence or being deported to his homeland of Jordan for terrorist offences allegedly committed there. Now, which of the vociferous Tory gentlemen would care to have swapped places with Abu Qatada and to have been locked up for nine years without being charged with any offence?

It is simply too easy to shout "national security" and then for governments of whatever persuasion to dump suspects in jail and throw away the key. That's when an independent judiciary comes into its own.

David Ashton

Shipbourne, Kent

Theresa May might find herself in jail if she followed MPs' advice to deport Abu Qatada unlawfully, as it would be necessary to deny him habeas corpus. When Herbert Morrison, the wartime Home Secretary, refused to transmit an application for habeas corpus by a detained Nazi, the Lord Chief Justice, although agreeing that the imprisonment under Regulation 18b was lawful, ruled that this was a matter for the court. The right to apply for habeas corpus was so fundamental that, if it had not been wartime, he would have committed the Home Secretary to jail for preventing the application itself.

When the European Human Rights Convention was proposed by Churchill and drawn up by the greatest Conservative lawyer of the 20th century, the Nuremburg prosecutor Maxwell Fyfe, the threat of evidence tainted by torture was only too clear. The ruling that none of the millions of Britons who now travel the world can be extradited or deported to face evidence obtained by torture is a most important step forward for us all.

Derek J Cole

St Leonards, East Sussex

Murdoch paper tough on crime

Trevor Kavanagh, the associate editor of The Sun, is outraged that five of its journalists have been arrested in relation to alleged corrupt payments to the police. Kavanagh argues that the practices they are accused of are widespread throughout the industry and are used in the public interest. He concludes that there is a "witch hunt"' against News International.

This is a strange line of reasoning. The Sun's employees don't have a blank cheque to break the law on the grounds of "custom and practice".

And Kavanagh's argument is at odds with the paper's usual robust position on "law-and-order". Last summer's riots, for example, were widespread. This is what The Sun had to say on 9 August: "The Sun demands decisive action. Our brave police must be given a free hand to smash the mobs whatever it takes... The courts must be ruthless. The maximum sentence for riot is ten years. So let's see it applied."

Should Sun journalists be found guilty of the crimes they are accused of I trust the courts will take "decisive action" and be "ruthless" with them. It's what they always wanted.

Sasha Simic

London N16

End of a great love affair

There is a game I fell in love with when I was five. My love affair has lasted for 59 years, through Heysel, Hillsborough, Ibrox, Bradford.

I was born in Nelson, Lancashire, my local team Burnley, winners of the 1959-60 first division championship, and in 1960-61 second in the league and FA Cup to the mighty Spurs of Blanchflower and Greaves.

Burnley and Spurs were managed by football purists, Harry Potts and Bill Nicholson. Their encounters were thrilling and inspiring, whatever the outcome. I remember us losing 2-1 in the dying moments of a game at Turf Moor, where Jimmy Greaves scored with his head, following a thrilling run down the right by the Welsh flier Cliff Jones. My friend Oliver and I went home on the bus enthusing about the Greaves's goal in spite of our disappointment, as our favourites were defeated.

Fast forward to 2011/2012. Rooney holds Manchester United to ransom. Luis Suarez racially abuses Patrice Evra. Kenny Dalglish completely loses his moral compass. No one knows what constitutes a fair tackle any more. Sickening abuse from spectators. Average players paid small fortunes.

I can no longer love this game. It is corrupt, lacking in morals and populated by cheats, who argue that the only thing that matters is the result. The most successful managers in the land support this philosophy. None of these teams is ever defeated by a better side. It's the fault of the referees, the linesman, the state of the pitch, the FA, the weather. Pathetic and depressing.

Peter Catlow

Laneshaw Bridge, Lancashire

It would appear that Nigel Armstrong's intense dislike of football (letter, 14 February) has impaired his ability to produce a coherent argument. He claims that it is a "false assumption" that the game is really popular.

There are any number of indicators which demonstrate the popularity of football in Britain: match-day attendance figures, TV viewing figures, participation at all levels and ages (from five-a-side and kids' football all the way up to the Premiership), the geographic spread of participation across the whole of Britain, shirt sales and media coverage (it may be excessive at times, but it is underpinned by the game's popularity).

Additionally, football is the only truly worldwide team sport. It is played on every continent, by people of all classes; its simple rules and minimal equipment making it accessible to all.

The wages in Premiership football have increased off the back of football's popularity (both home and abroad); popularity which has enticed Russian oligarchs and Gulf billionaires into English football. These foreign owners have driven wages even higher in the quest for immediate success. It would appear – from last month's lack of transfer activity – that Uefa's Financial Fair Play rules are starting to return transfers (and wages) to more sensible levels.

None of this is to say that football does not have a corrosive impact on other sports. The ever-extending length of the season , football every day of the week and ballooning costs of TV rights are all problems. But to suggest that football isn't popular merely opens one up to ridicule.

Barry Richards


Bankers not allowed to lend

So the banks are still not lending enough to businesses, after months of pressure from the Government, but no one seems to have wondered whether it is the structure of the banks that is to blame.

I retired as a local corporate director of NatWest some 14 years ago. I had a discretionary power of £500,000 and my account executives had substantial powers, as did the managers of the branches. My successor within a few years (probably not unconnected with the takeover by the raiders from north of the border) had no power at all. He could not lend a penny without the approval of "head office".

Worryingly, I am now getting calls from former customers asking for advice as they don't have a point of contact in the bank to whom they can turn for help. There is certainly no effort by the banks to try to get to know and understand businesses. I can't speak for all the banks but anecdotal evidence suggests they have moved in the same direction.

Project Merlin didn't seem to have much effect, so perhaps the banks should be really radical and bring back the local bank manager and give him a bit of power.

Bob King

Rushton, Northamptonshire

What is missing from most, if not all, the discussion about bankers' bonuses is a how the banks actually make their money.

In essence, the banks' income over recent years has arisen from developing more and more ingenious ways to make money out of their customers, from complex derivative packages to pension mis-selling, to mis-selling mortgage payment protection insurance, as well as avoiding paying customers almost anything on their savings. In addition, those at the top can often improve profitability (at least in the short term) by making those further down redundant.

It is also worth mentioning that, essentially, it is customers who pay for all those indulgent office blocks and expense accounts that litter the City and Canary Wharf.

It would be nice to think that our politicians were more concerned about the long-term interests of the economy and society as a whole than the short-term interests of the City. For better or worse, we cannot assume that these two interests coincide.

Dr Bruce Lloyd

Emeritus Professor of Strategic Management

London South Bank University

Stephen Hester must be seething at the treatment meted out to him recently. Politicians like Ed Miliband and journalists such as your own Steve Richards have picked on and vilified the lowest paid and least offensive banker just because he works for a bank in which the taxpayer is the majority shareholder, an easy target.

Nick Collier

London N5

What black box needs to know

The proposed new "black boxes" under the bonnet to monitor young motorists' speed, braking, acceleration, cornering and how often they drive at night (report, 14 February), should also record how far they are from the vehicle in front.

This is important because according to the Department of Transport, failing to look properly, poor reaction and driver error are the most common contributing factors to accidents on our roads. Being well away from the car in front gives inexperienced drivers more time to react.

Kartar Uppal

West Bromwich, West Midlands

Mystery of Cézanne café


Guy Keleny(Errors and Omissions, 11 February) defines "anonymous" as meaning "having no name, or of unknown name".

He then goes on to quote from a piece on Cézanne from last Monday's edition: "Two poor men sit across from each other playing cards in an anonymous café..." and states that here "anonymous" "seems to mean obscure or unremarkable". No it doesn't. It means exactly what he said it means: "of unknown name".

Jimmy Bates

Ledbury, Herefordshire

Marbles in peril

John Eoin Douglas (letter, 14 February) is "glad the Elgin Marbles remain safe in London and have not been returned to such a savage nation" as Greece. I presume his comfort derives from his confidence that London would never experience rioting. And selective amnesia.

Colin Dryden

Formby, Merseyside

Energy market

Your correspondent who complains of paying around 60p per litre for LPG (letter, 13 February) should take heart. Having switched supplier last year, I have just had my tank topped up at 45.5p per litre plus VAT at 5 per cent.

P Millward


All clear

It is clear to me that politicians claiming to be "clear" (letter, 11 February) have got their idioms mixed up. They would do better to make sure that they are in the clear.

James Snowden