Algerian terror suspects being held without trial agree to be deported

The Associated Press, International Harald tribune, January 20, 2007

At least three Algerian men detained as suspected terrorists and held without trial have agreed to be voluntarily deported from Britain, their lawyer said Saturday.

Gareth Peirce said three of her clients had chosen to return to their native country, despite concerns they are likely to face torture at the hands of Algerian authorities.

One client had told her that after almost five years of detention in Britain, "he preferred a quick death there rather than an endless, slow death here" Peirce said.

The British Broadcasting Corp. reported that a total of five men had agreed to return to Algeria voluntarily.

It said the five were part of a group of 27 foreign nationals being held on the grounds they are a threat to national security, several of whom have been held in custody without trial for more than four years.

Britain's Home Office refused to confirm whether any suspects had agreed to voluntary deportation and said it would not comment on the status of any of the 27 being held.

"We do not comment on operational matters and cannot confirm any details about these cases," said a Home Office spokeswoman, on customary condition of anonymity.

Peirce said she was not aware of the total number of men who had agreed to be deported.

"For these men there have been no convictions, no proper accusations, no knowledge of what is alleged against them and — astonishingly — for most, no questioning by police," she said in a statement.

"Each believes he faces torture or death, not because he has committed any offense, but because he has been branded" as a terrorist by British prosecutors, Peirce said. "Those who work to eradicate torture do not see these deportations as a victory."

The Home Office said Britain had agreed to allow the deportation of suspects to Algeria following a July meeting between Prime Minister Tony Blair and Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika. Though the countries have no formal extradition treaty, the leaders exchanged letters of assurance to examine any deportations on a case-by-case basis, the spokeswoman said.

Human rights groups have claimed suspects deported to Algeria are likely to be subjected to torture.

Britain instituted a policy of holding terrorism suspects without trial following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, but the practice was outlawed by a House of Lords decision in 2004.

Since then, dozens of suspects have been held under immigration powers — which allow the detention of illegal immigrants — pending attempts to deport them to their native countries.

Last June, the Special Immigration Appeal Commission — a specialist tribunal that deals with deportation cases of terrorism suspects — confirmed two Algerian men had agreed to voluntary deportation.

Court documents show several Algerian suspects are accused of being connected to Abu Doha, a 40-year-old Algerian described by U.S. prosecutors as a key al-Qaida figure who oversaw a plot to blow up Los Angeles airport on New Year's Eve 1999.

Doha is currently being held by British authorities pending an appeal against a decision to deport him to Algeria.

Britain's Department of Constitutional Affairs, responsible for the appeal commission, could not immediately confirm whether five more suspects had agreed to be voluntarily deported.

 
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