Algerian loses deportation appeal

Staff and agencies, Guardian Unlimited, August 24, 2006

An Algerian who was cleared of any involvement in the supposed "Ricin plot" today lost his appeal against Home Office moves to deport him.

The man, who can be identified only by the initial "Y", was ruled to be a danger to national security by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac).

The crucial ruling - which will affect the government's ability to deport 15 other Algerian terror suspects - also indicated that the panel believed there had been improvements in the stability of the Algerian regime and a reduction in the number of allegations of torture.

In its ruling, Siac said: "Y has been a long-term supporter of various Algerian terrorist groups with a jihadist agenda. This conclusion that he is not a mere passive sympathiser, but is a more influential and active member and supporter, has an importance beyond the specific evidence which has been presented about what Y has done.

"Y is an Islamist extremist of long standing who has significant terrorist group connections. His activities, by way of logistic support for those groups, and his presence as an active extremist supporter, show that he is a risk to the UK's national security and should be deported."

Mr Justice Ouseley, the Siac chairman, gave Y's lawyers until September 29 to submit full appeal papers if they wished to contest the commission's decision. Last year, Y was acquitted of involvement in the supposed "Ricin plot". The decision came at the end of a two-year investigation triggered when anti-terrorist squad officers found a suspected chemical weapons laboratory containing materials used in making ricin, when they raided a flat in London. The Old Bailey trial heard that the plan was to distribute the deadly toxin on car door handles in Holloway Road, north London. No ricin was ever found.

Siac has previously reported that Y is subject to a death sentence passed in Algeria in his absence, plus two sentences of life imprisonment - all for terrorist-related offences. Under human rights law, suspects cannot be deported to countries where they may face torture or ill-treatment.

The government has been seeking diplomatic assurances from the Algerian government that anyone returned to the north African country will not be harmed.

In the judgment, Siac said: "We give some weight to the assurances received in December 2005 about how he would be treated were he returned to face a retrial... and to the verbal assurances which have been received... We have concluded that they are acting in good faith; the political changes demonstrate their will and the level and consistency of the assurances support that."

It pointed out that there had been a number of "diplomatic, official and high political level" discussions between the two countries.

"It is not conceivable that these are given deceitfully or that the Algerian attitude will change when Y is returned," the judgment added.

The Home Secretary, John Reid, said he welcomed the judgment for two reasons.

"First, because the court agreed this individual is a danger to national security and should be deported," he said. "Second, because the court recognised that Algeria has changed - so as to allow us to deport this individual without jeopardising his human rights thanks to the Algerian charter on peace and national reconciliation and the assurances we have received from the Algerian government."

The UK government has an interest in keeping in "close touch" with the Algerian authorities once Y is removed, the report said. The British government has a "clear incentive" to do so, because it plans to return more Algerian Islamist extremists in the future.

"There would be high level political interest and a threat to the good faith of Algeria in international relations which cannot be overlooked, although it is difficult to assess in concrete terms," the ruling said.

Torture in Algeria is now less likely to be overlooked because the judiciary is strengthening and the military secret police, the DRS, is aware that it no longer enjoys free rein, the report said. There has been a reduction in the number of allegations of torture that "reflects the changing and stabilising political situation in Algeria", the report added.

Human rights group Amnesty International said it was "deeply dismayed" by today's decision.

"Given the extensive evidence before Siac that Y would face a real risk of torture if deported to Algeria, today's decision can only be described as an affront to justice, and wrong," spokeswoman Nicola Duckworth said.

In a highly unusual move, three of the jurors who acquitted Y in last year's ricin trial issued a statement through Amnesty condemning the Algerian's treatment by the British authorities.

"We were three jurors on Y's criminal trial and after seven months listening carefully to the evidence and arguments from the prosecution and defence, we, as a jury, acquitted him of all charges and expected that on his release he could begin to rebuild his life in this country," the statement said.

"As three ordinary members of the public, we have had our eyes opened to such an unfair and unjust sequence of events orchestrated by the authorities that we feel compelled to speak out. This is contrary to anything we thought could be possible in a democratic, free society,"

 
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