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Home Secretary ignores Court decision, kidnaps bailed men and imprisons them in Belmarsh

Andy Worthington | 28.02.2009 18:33 | Repression | Terror War

The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, appears to have declared war on the government’s own secret terror court, overruling decisions made by judges in the Special Immigration Appeals Court (SIAC) yesterday, and — in what can only be described as an act of executive fiat — unilaterally revoking their bail, kidnapping them on their way home from the London courtroom (or in raids on their homes) and imprisoning them in Belmarsh high-security prison in south east London.

After the Law Lords’ ruling last week, that Abu Qatada and two Algerians — known only as U and RB — can be deported to Jordan and Algeria, the government petitioned to revoke the bail conditions of U and RB, as well as three other men — known only as Y, Z and VV — but failed to inform their lawyers until Wednesday, and then gagged them, preventing them from discussing the cases until yesterday, when they mounted a challenge at a SIAC hearing in London. An observer noted that the government’s claims that it now had the right to revoke the bail of the five men was “comprehensively trashed” by Dinah Rose QC, representing the men.

More importantly, the SIAC judges ruled that no further action in respect of the men’s cases was to be taken until next week at the earliest, and scheduled a full hearing for next Thursday morning.

However, when 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 judges, 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 judges. The first the lawyers heard about it was when one of the men’s wives rang, inquiring why he had not yet returned home.

SIAC is meeting again today, and the whole situation threatens to turn into a colossal headache for the government. The men’s lawyers will argue that the government was in contempt of court, and it is expected that Mr. Justice Mitting, the chief judge, will not be happy to hear that the government behaved as though SIAC’s decisions were irrelevant, and, moreover, that the Home Secretary then acted in a manner that would have pleased King John, in those days before England’s nobles forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, establishing for the first time that the king had no right to imprison his subjects “except upon the lawful judgment of his peers or the law of the land.”

Today, we seem to be experiencing a new version of the divine right of kings: the self-declared right of an elected government official to ignore her own judges, and to cast foreign “terror suspects” into the modern day version of the Tower of London — Belmarsh prison — with no regard for the laws established over the last 794 years.

UPDATE at 1 pm: In a humiliating defeat for the government, the SIAC judges have just ruled that all of the men — except U — are to be released from Belmarsh and allowed to return home under previously agreed conditions. The humiliation of Jacqui Smith will hopefully soon be announced in greater detail.

UPDATE at 3 pm: I’ve just heard from observers that the judges’ decision to order four of the five men to be sent home was chosen as an alternative to the lawyers’ recommended course of action: nailing Jacqui Smith for contempt of court and kidnap.

SIAC will now be meeting next Wednesday (March 4) to discuss the European Court of Human Rights’ objections to the British government’s use of Special Advocates in closed court sessions, and the rules preventing the Special Advocates from reporting any information whatsoever to either the accused or their lawyers.

A hearing to review U’s bail conditions is scheduled for March 5, and another hearing, examining the government’s request to revoke all the men’s existing bail conditions and to imprison them in Belmarsh by legal means is scheduled for March 11.

Please come along if you can. Hearings start at 9.30 am. SIAC is located at Field House, 15 Bream’s Buildings, London EC4A 1DZ. A map is here:

Andy Worthington
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Details of demo Wed 4th March

03.03.2009 21:15

Demonstration calling for an end to the use of secret evidence and special
advocates in "terrorism"-related cases.

Wednesday 4 March: 1-2pm

No to Secret Evidence in UK Courts! Demonstration outside SIAC
Bream Buildings
Off Fetters Lane
(nearest tube: Chancery Lane)

imc person