Calling Time On The Use Of Secret Evidence In The UK

10.12.09

Lord Justice LawsOn December 1, two High Court judges, Lord Justice Laws and Mr. Justice Owen, dealt what looked like the final blows to the British government’s policies of imprisoning terror suspects without charge or trial on the basis of secret evidence — or otherwise depriving them of their liberty under a form of house arrest (also on the basis of secret evidence) — which have existed, in various forms, since December 2001, when a number of men were seized and held for three years in Belmarsh prison.

On Monday, however, in the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), which functions as Britain’s “terror court,” these hopes were dashed when Mr. Justice Mitting refused to reinstate the bail of an Algerian prisoner, who is imprisoned facing deportation, even though his bail was revoked in March on the basis of secret evidence.

A brief history of control orders and deportation bail

To recap, the Law Lords brought the initial regime of imprisonment without charge or trial to an end in December 2004, ruling that the detention of the 17 men held in Belmarsh during this three-year period infringed their right to liberty under Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees “the lawful detention of a person after conviction by a competent court.” The government responded not by releasing the men — or, as critics had requested (PDF), by putting them on trial and arranging for sensitive intelligence material to be used, with safeguards, in the courts — but by holding them in their homes under a form of house arrest, through the use of secret evidence. This secret evidence is discussed, on the men’s behalf, by special advocates appointed by the government in closed sessions of SIAC. Absurdly, however, the special advocates are prohibited from discussing anything that occurs in the closed sessions, leaving the men and their lawyers unable to challenge whatever is decided in their absence.

It took until June this year for the Law Lords to finally decide that this is an intolerable travesty of justice, infringing the men’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, because a suspect held under a control order is not given “sufficient information about the allegations against him to enable him to give effective instructions to the special advocate assigned to him.”

However, the Lords’ ruling applied only to those held under control orders: British citizens, who have been subjected to the orders in increasing numbers over the last few years (with barely a ripple of dissent from the British public), and foreign citizens who cannot be deported to countries where they face a risk of torture. This latter group is included because, in assessing legal challenges to prevent their deportation, judges have found themselves unable to accept the government’s attempts to bypass the UN Convention Against Torture’s absolute ban on deporting people to countries where they face a risk of torture. They have done so by refusing to accept that “Memoranda of Understanding”, which purport to guarantee the humane treatment of the deportees, and which have been agreed with such unlikely defenders of human rights as Libya’s Colonel Gaddafi, are either trustworthy or enforceable.

Detainees not covered by the control orders are those held on deportation bail (or in prison awaiting deportation): citizens of countries with whom “Memoranda of Understanding,” or, in Algeria’s case, some kind of shady word-of-mouth agreement, have not yet been overturned by the UK courts, or by the European Court of Human Rights. These men were excluded from the ramifications of this ruling until December 1, when Lord Justice Laws and Mr. Justice Owen helpfully, and appropriately, brought them under the same umbrella as the control order detainees, ruling that it was “impossible to find a legally viable route … by which to conclude that in bail cases a less stringent procedural case is required” than that vouchsafed in A and other and AF, the control order case decided by the Law Lords in June 2009.

The judges were ruling in the case of two “terror suspects.” One man, XC, is a 23-year old Pakistani student and one of the North West 10 (students rounded up in connection with a wildly hyped and seemingly unsubstantiated terror plot in April). His case, and that of another student, UF, will be decided next week, but on Monday, armed with the ruling of Lord Justice Laws and Mr. Justice Owen, lawyers for U returned to SIAC in the hope of reinstating his bail.

Detainee U: eight years in prison, and eight months on bail

To give some necessary background, U is a 46-year old Algerian who, as the judges noted on December 1, “save for a period from July 2008 until February 2009, when he was on bail … has been continuously in custody since March 2001,” without charge or trial. As the judges explained, “U first applied for bail in July 2007. His application was heard in SIAC on 23 August 2007 and was rejected on the basis that the length of time for which he had been detained pending deportation was not yet excessive.”

On 11 March 2008, the House of Lords granted him leave to appeal, which he did, along with other Algerians detained pending deportation. As the judges explained, “The Secretary of State did not oppose the application but sought U’s admission to bail at an address in Liverpool on a 22 hour curfew. U proposed an address in Brighton. For reasons not disclosed at the time the Secretary of State objected to the Brighton address. On 30 April 2008 SIAC ordered that U be released on bail to the Brighton address subject to stringent conditions, including a 24 hour curfew.”

In July 2008, U was moved to the address in Brighton, where he remained until February 2009. On 18 February, the House of Lords dismissed his appeal (along with those of Abu Qatada, a Jordanian, and another Algerian known as RB), and on the same day Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, “applied to SIAC to revoke U’s bail on the basis of ‘an increased risk of absconding due to the terms of the judgment’” (as well as requesting revocation of bail in the cases of RB and three other men, identified as Y, Z and VV). The application reached SIAC on 26 February, but when SIAC adjourned further consideration of it until 5 March, and refused Jacqui Smith’s “request for bail to be revoked pending the resumed hearing,” she took the law into her own hands. As I explained at the time, in an article entitled, “Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh,”

[W]hen the two men who attended the hearing — U and VV — were driven away from the court, expecting to return home, as ordered by the SIAC judge, they were, instead, delivered to Belmarsh prison, where they were joined by the other three men, who had been seized in raids on their homes. This was clearly planned by the Home Secretary in advance, even though she had informed neither the men’s lawyers nor the SIAC judge. The first the lawyers heard about it was when one of the men’s wives rang, inquiring why he had not yet returned home.

The following day, as the judges described it on December 1, “together with the four appellants detained overnight, U sought his immediate release and made an urgent application for judicial review of the decision to detain him on the grounds that it was an abuse of power.” Although the other men were subsequently released on bail, a closed hearing in U’s case resulted in Mr. Justice Mitting siding with the government (despite U’s extra-legal kidnapping the day before), revoking his bail “on a temporary basis (pending the adjourned hearing) on the ground that the closed material indicated an increased risk to national security and of U’s absconding.”

At the following hearing, U’s submission that “sufficient details of any closed material sought to be relied on by the Secretary of State should be disclosed so that effective instructions might be given to U’s special advocate” was rejected by SIAC, “without at that stage giving reasons,” and on 20 March SIAC followed up by “rejecting the Secretary of State’s application to revoke the bail of the four other appellants, but holding that U’s bail should be revoked,” explaining, “For the reasons which are wholly set out in the closed judgment, we are satisfied that the risk that U will breach his bail conditions has significantly increased.”

The judges’ ruling last week in the cases of U and XC is an extraordinary document, in which Lord Justice Laws took a tour through 900 years of English law in order to decide that it was “impossible” to conclude “that in bail cases a less stringent procedural standard is required” than in control order cases (and also to refute a claim by SIAC that its decisions should be “immune from judicial review”). The judges did, however, grant the government leave to appeal, and it was for this reason that SIAC reconvened on Monday to decide how to proceed in U’s case.

Revoking U’s bail

In the run-up to the hearing, those who have been watching the deportation bail cases closely wondered what would happen when the government was required not to rely on secret evidence, but to make its case in open court. In a separate article, “Living With A Terror Suspect: Detainee U’s Landlord Tells His Story,” Jack Hazelgrove, the man who made a room available in his house from August 2008 until U was kidnapped by Jacqui Smith in February 2009, described the surreal and intimidating circumstances under which U was required to live, and the raids by Home Office representatives in search of evidence that he was breaking his bail conditions and was preparing to abscond. These episodes, which involved a fig tree in Mr. Hazelgrove’s garden interfering with the surveillance equipment, Home Office Representatives confusing a map of Maidstone with a map of Folkestone, and the most extraordinary paranoia surrounding U’s request to be allowed to walk in a small park near the house for one hour once a fortnight, seem to demonstrate, above all, how the Home Office appeared to be determined to return U to prison using any means necessary.

As I explained in an article in March, “Britain’s insane secret terror evidence,” these suspicions appeared to be confirmed when, in the portion of U’s bail-stripping hearing that was open to the public, the government claimed that U’s bail conditions were “difficult to manage,” and that the address was “unmanageable,” and Robin Tam QC, the Treasury Solicitor, claimed that, even though the route for U’s first, brief excursions into the wider world since 2001 “had been approved by his own government department, there was allegedly a risk that U would abscond because the route passed by a main road, was two km from a railway station, and was not far from a number of ports.”

As I noted at the time, “Quite how this bookish man was supposed to overwhelm four Home Office representatives and make a run for it was not explained,” and it was difficult, therefore, to see how any of this would stand up to objective scrutiny, and how it would be possible to overturn the main conclusion of the High Court ruling on December 1. As with the Law Lords’ ruling on control orders in June, it appeared to be unarguable that those held under control orders or deportation bail are deprived of their right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the ECHR, because they are not given “sufficient information about the allegations against [them] to enable [them] to give effective instructions to the special advocate assigned to [them].”

SIAC refuses to reinstate U’s bail

Mr. Justice MittingIn the end, however, the anticipated showdown failed to materialize. Mr. Justice Mitting acknowledged that last week’s High Court ruling had removed “a vital tool” in SIAC’s appraisal of deportation bail issues related to those held in connection with alleged terrorist activities. He added that, in the cases of other men held pending deportation, the removal of this “vital tool” might cause problems in future, but concluded, in U’s case, that it “doesn’t mean we cannot appeal it afresh in light of considerations we did not then consider.” What this meant, in practice, was that Mitting was prepared to turn the clock back to March, when the revocation of bail was first established, and to review that decision based not on closed evidence, but on the open evidence, establishing, to the satisfaction of the court, that U is a major threat to national security and at risk of absconding.

This was a bitter disappointment for those who hoped that Monday’s hearing would significantly damage the government’s reliance on secret evidence in the cases of those, like U, who are facing deportation despite their long imprisonment without charge or trial, and in fact all the signs were that the government is using this latest setback not to appraise how it deals with secret evidence, but to reinforce its position that, in cases related to terrorism, the ad-hoc system dreamt up in 2001 and reinterpreted in 2005 must be defended at all costs.

Speaking for the government, Robin Tam QC went so far as to suggest that, in future, it was possible that the Home Secretary would consider refusing bail in all deportation cases involving secret evidence related to allegations of terrorism. This prompted Mr. Justice Mitting to note that the government appeared to be indicating that SIAC would be cut out of the process, and his concerns were not mitigated when Robin Tam drew his attention to a number of historical cases in which the courts had deferred to the government on national security issues, including one in which it was stated that the judicial process was “totally inept” regarding matters of national security.

Tam’s argument, essentially, was that, “If SIAC does not have the tools to make fine decisions, then it must take a broader view and apply a lighter touch,” which would give the Home Secretary a greater role in deciding how to proceed with deportation cases related to allegations of terrorism. This, of course, is yet another step away from what those who seek an end to the use of secret evidence have long been demanding, but in court on Monday, Stephanie Harrison, U’s barrister, appeared to be sailing against the wind when she argued that the obligation to provide fair hearings overrides national security concerns, and when she attempted to question the entire architecture of the secret evidence system.

As a result, Monday’s ruling was a bitter blow for those who, in recent months, have had their hopes raised that the government will abandon the use of secret evidence in cases related to allegations of terrorism, and will be obliged to rethink the entire system, finding a way to use sensitive intelligence information in a regular court (as most countries in the world have done), without compromising their sources or methods, so that this parallel judicial world can be brought to an end.

The way forward

Although next Monday’s hearing (in the cases of XC and UF) may be more challenging for the government, Monday’s events suggest that the best way forward for those opposed to the use of secret evidence is to shift the focus back to the control order cases. As the government has been learning in recent months, following the Law Lords’ ruling in June, when it comes to justifying control orders, the only way forward for the government is to release further information to the detainees and their lawyers, although the new Home Secretary, Alan Johnson, has been unwilling to do so. As a result, several men who were once so casually described as terrorists have actually had their control orders quashed, indicating that, when it comes down to it, the government has been required to look long and hard at its supposed evidence, and has, in fact, decided that some of these men are less dangerous than others, and that others are not dangerous at all.

The same principles apply to those held pending deportation, as was revealed in SIAC on Monday, when, having repeatedly described U as “the top of the tree” in terms of the threat that he allegedly poses to national security, Mr. Justice Mitting conceded that there was, in fact, a sliding scale regarding the threat posed by those held on deportation bail, particularly when he stated, “One individual has been a terrible nuisance but the risk he poses is towards the bottom of the scale.”

In U’s case, it appears that there is no way out of his apparently unending limbo, in which he has now been held for nearly nine years, even though neither the government nor SIAC can, in all honesty, predict how this story will end. As Mr. Justice Mitting noted on Monday, he is near the end point of exhausting the appeals procedure against deportation in the UK, and if all avenues are exhausted by next year, he will then be obliged to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, which may take another 18 months. At the end of that process (when he will have been held for 11 or 12 years), it is possible that the government will be told that they cannot deport him, and will have to think again about what it intends to do with him, but at present no one is prepared to look into the future.

This is, to put it bluntly, a rather depressing scenario, as U remains in a place where, on the basis of untested allegations, he is regarded permanently as an active threat, while those responsible for depriving him of a trial breezily discuss how long it is possible to hold someone in such circumstances before their detention becomes “excessive.” It also, dangerously, removes him from the cycle of conviction and sentencing that has existed since the establishment of habeas corpus nearly 800 years ago, creating the impression that those accused of activities related to terrorism are a separate class of being for whom the normal laws do not apply, and who, as a result, can legitimately be deprived of their liberty, perhaps for the rest of their lives, despite never having been tried or convicted of any crime.

In conclusion, I can only reiterate that, while complaints about yesterday’s hearing are demonstrably valid, campaigners may find that a useful plan of attack on the whole system needs to focus not just on the injustice of the entire apparatus, but specifically on its discrepancies, and on the concept of a sliding scale whose existence, while mentioned by Mr. Justice Mitting on Monday, and by the Law Lords in February, when they declared that the Algerian, RB, was a “small fish,” is most readily apparent in the control order cases. To my mind, the only reason that such a sliding scale can exist is because the form of “preventive detention” practiced in the UK — which caused widespread consternation in human rights circles, when President Obama proposed passing legislation to introduce it earlier this year in relation to prisoners held at Guantánamo — is inherently corrupt.

The use of secret evidence is corrosive precisely because, under the guise of protecting intelligence agents and their sources, the government is free to declare that certain individuals are a ”threat” without ever being challenged adequately about the basis of these fears. We, the public, are left to trust the interpretation made by the judges, who, essentially, are working within a biased system in which the prosecutors are free to present their cases, but the defense teams are kept — to an unknown extent — in the dark. And that, of course, is neither just nor prudent, however much the government and SIAC pretend that it is.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK). To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook and Twitter). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, published in March 2009, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, and launched in October 2009), and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published exclusively on Cageprisoners. Cross-posted on The Public Record.

For other articles dealing with Belmarsh, control orders, deportation bail, deportations and extraditions, see Deals with dictators undermined by British request for return of five Guantánamo detainees (August 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: the troubling tale of Tunisian Belmarsh detainee Hedi Boudhiba, extradited, cleared and abandoned in Spain (August 2007), Guantánamo as house arrest: Britain’s law lords capitulate on control orders (November 2007), The Guantánamo Britons and Spain’s dubious extradition request (December 2007), Britain’s Guantánamo: control orders renewed, as one suspect is freed (February 2008), Spanish drop “inhuman” extradition request for Guantánamo Britons (March 2008), UK government deports 60 Iraqi Kurds; no one notices (March 2008), Repatriation as Russian Roulette: Will the Two Algerians Freed from Guantánamo Be Treated Fairly? (July 2008), Abu Qatada: Law Lords and Government Endorse Torture (February 2009), Ex-Guantánamo prisoner refused entry into UK, held in deportation centre (February 2009), Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh (February 2009), Britain’s insane secret terror evidence (March 2009), Torture taints all our lives (published in the Guardian’s Comment is free), Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (1) Detainee Y, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (2) Detainee BB, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (3) Detainee U, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (4) Hussain Al-Samamara, Five Stories From Britain’s Guantánamo: (5) Detainee Z, Britain’s Guantánamo: Fact or Fiction? and URGENT APPEAL on British terror laws: Get your MP to support Diane Abbott’s Early Day Motion on the use of secret evidence (all April 2009), and Taking liberties with our justice system and Death in Libya, betrayal in the West (both for the Guardian), Law Lords Condemn UK’s Use of Secret Evidence And Control Orders (June 2009), Miliband Shows Leadership, Reveals Nothing About Torture To Parliamentary Committee (June 2009), Britain’s Torture Troubles: What Tony Blair Knew (June 2009), Seven years of madness: the harrowing tale of Mahmoud Abu Rideh and Britain’s anti-terror laws, Would you be able to cope?: Letters by the children of control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh, Control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh to be allowed to leave the UK (all June 2009), Testing control orders and Dismantle the secret state (for the Guardian), UK government issues travel document to control order detainee Mahmoud Abu Rideh after horrific suicide attempt (July 2009), Secret evidence in the case of the North West 10 “terror suspects” (August 2009), Letting go of control orders (for the Guardian, September 2009), Another Blow To Britain’s Crumbling Control Order Regime (September 2009), UK Judge Approves Use of Secret Evidence in Guantánamo Case (November 2009).

9 Responses

  1. Brian Barder says...

    I entirely agree that the present situation is deeply unsatisfactory and probably entails serious injustice for a number of people. But one of the principal ways for the security services to detect and pre-empt terrorist activity must, as a matter of common sense, be to get information from secret informers who, for whatever reason, run grave personal risks by passing on information about what is going on in their own communities, which may be small, tight groups where everyone knows everyone else. If information supplied by informers is used in open court as evidence, and made available to the suspect and his lawyers, it will often — perhaps usually — be possible for the suspect, his lawyers or his friends to be able to work out from the nature of the information who it was that supplied it to the police, MI5 or whoever. The consequences for the informer could thus be extremely grave. For example, he might be physically attacked as a traitor; his family could be in danger; he would probably have to move, which would probably mean losing his job; and so forth. Even worse in some ways: once a secret informer had lost his cover through being identified by his information being revealed in open court, others throughout Britain who might otherwise consider giving vital information to the authorities would be bound to change their minds: the penalties of exposure if the information they were providing became known to those involved in terrorist planning would be too severe. Thus the security forces would lose their primary tool for detecting and foiling terrorist activity.

    To a limited extent this can be resolved by dressing up the informer’s evidence and deliberately distorting it in such a way as to disguise its source. Witnesses’ voices can be disguised and they can testify behind screens or by video-link from another place. Sometimes the informer’s information can be corroborated by other means and the corroborative evidence disclosed safely to the suspect. But often that won’t be possible: even the search for corroboration may compromise the original informer’s safety. In some cases the informer may be the only person who has had access to the vital information which he has passed on to the authorities. In such situations there may be no way to protect him if his information has to be disclosed to the suspect and his lawyers. In such a case, what if the information he has supplied constitutes clear evidence that the suspect has indeed been planning a terrorist attack? The security authorities dare not allow the evidence to be disclosed to the suspect because it would compromise the informer and put him in danger, as well as deterring anyone else from giving secret information in future cases. Yet simply to drop the case against the suspect and set him free puts society in danger: it’s not possible to keep more than a few such people under 24-hour surveillance indefinitely. Sooner or later they can disappear into the woodwork.

    I don’t claim to know the answer to this problem. I agree that it’s far better for suspects to be charged and tried in the ordinary criminal courts than for their appeals to be heard in SIAC with its provision for closed and hearsay evidence and special advocates. But the problem of disclosing informers’ evidence to the suspect and others in an ordinary court is then even greater: are the jury all to be security-cleared, as well as the judge and the counsel and others before the sensitive evidence is heard? And there’s still the central problem of disclosure to the suspect (or the accused) of information that will lead him back to the identity of the informer.

    Similar (but to my mind much lesser) problems can arise where the main evidence against a suspect has been obtained by tapping a third party’s telephone. If that intercept evidence is revealed to the suspect, the third party will soon know that his phone has been tapped — and this may reveal to a whole terrorist group that their activities are known to the authorities, causing them to change their plans, stop using their telephones, and so forth.

    It’s fine to reassert the principle that an accused person has the absolute right to know the evidence against him and to be able to challenge it in court. But how does one reconcile that principle with the equally absolute need to protect the identity of informers? I simply don’t know. I wonder if anyone else does, either. The SIAC procedures are designed to enable sensitive evidence to be withheld from the suspect while ensuring that his interests can be protected as far as possible by the special advocate who can challenge the closed evidence on his behalf. The SIAC judges themselves have to be satisfied that the evidence in question really does need to be ‘closed’, i.e. withheld from the suspect. It’s not satisfactory. But what alternative is better?

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Brian,
    Good to hear from you. That’s a very well thought out response, deserving of a thoughtful and considered response, which I hope to provide.

    My overriding concern, which comes from having familiarized myself for many years with the intelligence-gathering of the US agencies, from having observed the cooperation between agencies of different countries (the case of Binyam Mohamed comes most immediately to mind, although there are, of course, many others), and also — more worryingly — from having learned how countries not only share evidence but also draw on intelligence provided by countries with distinctly dubious human rights records, is that this information does not just involve domestic informers, who may, as you say, need protecting, but who may also, in some cases, not necessarily be reliable just because they are informers.

    Beyond this (and that last point of mine is a major concern, I think) is the suspicion — or in some cases, the knowledge — that some of these sensitive sources are prisoners in other countries, who may have been tortured and have provided false information, and, over the last eight years, may have been prisoners held by the CIA or the US military, in Guantanamo or in secret prisons, who have also produced false information. It is for this reason, predominantly, that I believe the supposed evidence needs to be able to be tested objectively, and not because of the domestic aspects of the cases, where, I think, the problems could largely be overcome with the tactics of disguise that you discuss.

  3. Jim Grozier says...

    Brian – has it ever occurred to you that the “secret evidence” simply doesn’t exist, and that the reason the Home Office doesn’t want to have to “reveal” it is that there is nothing to reveal, other than the fact that these incarcerations are arbitrary and are based primarily on the HO’s need to be seen to be “doing something”, just as it was in the case of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four?

    Having seen some of this secret “evidence” that the HO very graciously agreed to reveal at one of the SIAC hearings back in February, I can tell you that if the rest is anything like that (it was simply a list of the locations of railway stations and bus routes!) then it is not really evidence at all.

    The other important point is that I am not sure you appreciate just how much the SIAC system institutionalises injustice. You say that “the SIAC procedures are designed to enable sensitive evidence to be withheld from the suspect while ensuring that his interests can be protected as far as possible by the special advocate who can challenge the closed evidence on his behalf”. But the Special Advocate can’t challenge the secret evidence, because he/she is sworn to secrecy! This is something even Afua Hirsch in the Guardian seems to have missed in her excellent article a few weeks ago.

    This is an important point when the arguments put forward by the HO depend on anonymous and inaccurate statements such as the one that Jack mentions in his article. How could the Special Advocate check things like the HO’s attempt to weave an “escape plot” out of a few old maps – the subject of one of which has been either accidentally or deliberately mistyped – when he/she is not allowed to reveal anything about the “evidence” to anyone, not even the appellant’s lawyer?

  4. Concerned says...

    Detainee ‘U’ (an Algerian, D.O.B 8 February 1963) has been continuously in custody since March 2001.

    In a February 2007 case hearing (http://tinyurl.com/yegllmj) U was described as having been in a “senior position in Mujahedin training camp in Afghanistan” with “Direct links to UBL (Usama Bin Laden) and other senior AQ (Al Qaeda) figures.” He was also “Involved in supporting terrorists including those involved in the planned attack on the Strasbourg Christmas Market in 2000”. Most of the testimony against ‘U’ stems from Ahmed Ressam, (he of the alleged ‘Los Angeles Airport plot’ of 2000). [Whenever these 2 ‘plots’ (Strasbourg Market & Los Angeles Airport) referred to, I smell a rat].

    The same case notes state that “there is clear and credible evidence that, between March 2000 and February 2001, a group of three Algerians, led by him [‘U’], purchased £230,000 worth of communication equipment from a UK company ‘Integrated Communications Solutions Ltd.’, which is run by ‘boss’ Stuart Castell. Further detail of this £230K purchase is provided in paragraph 8 of the October 2003 SIAC judgement concerning Appellant ‘B’ (http://tinyurl.com/y9af8kj). The equipment is described as being “procured for use by extremists in Chechnya and by the GSPC in Algeria.” The hearing notes also state (in paragraph 9) that [Appellant] B’s “activities were directed to supporting the GSPC and the Ibn Khattab faction in Chechnya”.

    From the SIAC judgement SSHD v AJOUAOU and A, B, C and D, of 29th October 2003 (http://tinyurl.com/yhfas89) paragraph 214 states that Ibn Khattab was “receiving American backing’.

    Somewhere therein all these (open & closed) judgements lies the corollary, that these (Algerian) persons were involved (as uninitiated/unbeknown but encouraged patsies?) in the precursory activities upon which the subsequent War on/of Terror is based.

    The fact that the prosecutors cannot lay bare their cases is telling, ‘national security’ excuses aside.

    Thanks for your continued investigations & research, Andy.

  5. Fahad Hashmi And Terrorist Hysteria In US Courts | FlipTrends-Following the Hottest Google Trends says...

    […] prisoner in Belmarsh prison (where other foreign terror suspects are held, pending deportation, on the basis of secret evidence) until March 2007, when the High Court approved his extradition. Since his arrival in the US, he […]

  6. New letter to William Hague, asking him to secure the return from Guantánamo of Shaker Aamer « freedetainees.org says...

    […] and an updated version of a related letter to MPs (which also calls for action on the use of secret evidence and control orders in the UK) will be handed out at future screenings of the new documentary film, […]

  7. A Good Day For Justice: British Supreme Court Bans Use Of Secret Evidence By Intelligence Services - OpEd says...

    […] articles — see, for example, Britain’s Guantánamo: Calling For An End To Secret Evidence, Calling Time On The Use Of Secret Evidence In The UK, Control Orders: Solicitors’ Evidence before the Joint Committee on Human Rights, February 3, […]

  8. Mark Erickson says...

    Hi Andy, I must admit I haven’t been reading much on your website lately, I’ve mainly followed your various activities on Facebook. But I’ve done a good bit of digging here recently on Detainee U, alias Amar Mahklulif, real name(?) Hider Hanani. I think this post is the last you’ve mentioned him, but please correct me if I’m wrong.

    I’ve found a SIAC ruling from 2011 that said he was released on bail again, this time it seems on better terms. http://www.siac.tribunals.gov.uk/Documents/U_Ruling_29Jul11_YD.pdf However, I can’t find any online press mentions. Not sure if there were none, or the U business makes them impossible to find. Do you know anything more or can find out? Thanks.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi Mark,
    Great to hear from you. That may well be the last time I wrote specifically about Detainee U, although I’ve certainly mentioned him a few times since in relation to the ongoing legal situation.
    I know he was released under more favourable conditions, but everyone concerned thought it better to avoid all publicity, hence his – presumably merciful – disappearance from the news. As I understand it, the Algerians’ legal challenges are still ongoing.

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Andy Worthington

Investigative journalist, author, campaigner, commentator and public speaker. Recognized as an authority on Guantánamo and the “war on terror.” Co-founder, Close Guantánamo, co-director, We Stand With Shaker. Also, singer and songwriter (The Four Fathers) and photographer.
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