The British Government has been ordered to pay a convicted terrorist more than £13,000 because his human rights were “violated” during police interviews over a plot to attack London.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that €16,000 (£13,600) of Ismail Abdurahman’s legal costs must be paid at the culmination of a seven-year court battle.
He hid one of the failed bombers who attempted to launch a second round of atrocities on 21 July 2005 for three days, during a nationwide manhunt that left an innocent man dead.
A panel of 17 judges sitting in the ECHR’s Grand Chamber found his rights to a fair trial and right to legal assistance had been breached by the Metropolitan Police, who initially questioned Abdurahman as a witness and failed to follow necessary procedure when he became a suspect.
“The Government [has not] demonstrated compelling reasons for restricting his access to legal advice and failing to inform him of his right to remain silent,” a judgement released on Tuesday said.
“It was significant that there was no basis in domestic law for the police to choose not to caution Mr Abdurahman at the point at which he had started to incriminate himself.”
The ECHR cut Abdurahman’s award from the £36,000 his lawyers requested and did not conclude he had been wrongly convicted following the terror plot.
The verdict was agreed by 11 votes to six after lengthy consideration by judges from countries including Britain, Italy, Turkey, Spain, Macedonia, Ukraine and Azerbaijan.
Abdurahman was jailed for eight years for giving shelter to Hussein Osman – one of five extremists who attempted to bomb the London transport network on 21 July 2005.
Just a fortnight after the 7/7 attacks, they made crude devices using hydrogen peroxide and shrapnel that failed to explode when the detonators were activated.
They then fled Shepherd’s Bush, Warren Street and Oval Tube stations, as well as a bus in Shoreditch, while a fifth bomber dumped his device without attempting to blow it up.
Hussain, who has since been jailed for life, hid with Abdurahman for three days after the attempted atrocities, sparking a manhunt that resulted in the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes when armed police mistook him for the fugitive.
Even after a lawyer informed him of his right to challenge the prosecution’s use of a statement he made without legal advice, Abdurahman did not retract it and used it as the basis of his defence at trial.
But the ECHR found the outcome may have been “irretrievably prejudiced by the decision not to caution him and to restrict his access to legal advice”.
“The Court said that great weight had to be attached to the nature of the offences in Mr Abdurahman’s case,” a spokesperson added.
“It emphasised that the threat posed by terrorism could only be neutralised by the effective investigation, prosecution and punishment of all those involved in terrorism.”
In the same hearing, the Grand Chamber threw out appeals by three other men convicted over the terror plot.
Muktar Ibrahim, Ramzi Mohammed and Yassin Omar – who were all jailed for life for conspiracy to murder – had launched several claims that their human rights were breached.
Making its final ruling over the case lodged in October 2008, the ECHR ruled by 15 votes to two that Scotland Yard detectives had not violated Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
All three men were arrested in the wake of the failed bombings and questioned in urgent “safety interviews” without legal advice to establish whether there was any remaining risk to the British public.
The ECHR found that the extreme circumstances created an “urgent need to avert serious adverse consequences for the life and physical integrity of the public, namely further suicide attacks” which trumped their right to legal advice.
Ibrahim, Mohammed and Omar initially denied any knowledge of the events of 21 July but later admitted involvement, while claiming the bombs had been a hoax and were never intended to explode.
But the ECHR said there was overwhelming evidence the devices were intended to “maximise injuries”, as well as of the convicts’ extremist views and advance planning.
The judge at the men's original trial, Mr Justice Fulford, described the plot as a “viable attempt at mass murder”, adding: “If the detonators had been slightly more powerful or the hydrogen peroxide slightly more concentrated, then each bomb would have exploded.”
He said the failed 21 July attacks were inspired by al-Qaeda and were connected with the bombings that killed 52 people in London two weeks earlier.
The ECHR’s judgements will now be sent to the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to supervise their execution.
The court, which is separate from the EU’s European Court of Justice, sits in Strasbourg to hear cases concerning the 47 signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The British courts found that these individuals planned to bring terror to the streets of London just two weeks after 52 people were killed in the July 7 bombings. Had their plot been successful, it would have had devastating consequences.
“We are pleased that the Grand Chamber has agreed with the British courts and has rejected the appeal of the three bombers. They remain behind bars where they belong.
“But we are disappointed with the Grand Chamber’s decision in relation to Ismail Abdurahman, who was convicted of helping one of the bombers to evade capture. Although this does not overturn his conviction for this serious offence, we will now carefully consider the implications of the judgment for our procedures in this type of case.”