Terror suspect under control order pleads to be allowed to return to ‘torture regime’

Terror suspect under control order pleads to be allowed to return to ‘torture regime’

By James Hamilton, Sunday Herald, 19 March 2006

A TERROR suspect and former Belmarsh prisoner has claimed he would rather go back to Algeria, where he faces possible torture, than remain in the UK under a control order.

The man who can only be identified as “A” has begun negotiations to return voluntarily to his home country of Algeria. He said he and five other Algerian terror suspects were considering the step because of “mental torture” imposed by the British government.

Mr A said yesterday he knew there was a risk in returning but he was prepared to take it.

“I don’t want to live like this,” he said. “I’m useless to my kids, to society and to my community. I can’t work, I can’t even do the shopping for my wife. If I’m not going to have my freedom in this country then I have to go back. A human being can’t take all this.”

He added: “Even if there is a risk, I have to take that risk.

“Here we are not tortured physically but mentally we are tortured. I am the cause of suffering for my children. Enough is enough.”

The 39-year-old father of five was jailed without charge or trial for three-and-a-half years under controversial internment laws and later released on a control order.

He was re-arrested in August last year pending deportation, but in October he was freed on strict bail conditions requiring him to stay indoors for 22 hours a day.

Mr A said he had approached the Algerian Embassy in London about securing permission to return.

His solicitors have also asked the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac) to vary his bail conditions so he can attend a meeting at the embassy for further negotiations, said Mr A.

“I want to test the water,” he said. “Hopefully the judge at Siac won’t make it difficult for us to get this bail variation to go to the embassy.”

Mr A said he planned to stay in Britain until July 10 when Siac is due to hear the latest stage of his appeal.

“But if I don’t have unconditional freedom after that, I will go home,” he said. “I don’t want to be put again on a control order.

“We are facing a kind of torture here in Britain and the pressure is to find another solution.”

Mr A said five other Algerians, including three currently detained at Long Lartin maximum security prison in Worcestershire, are considering returning home voluntarily.

The Home Office cannot deport them to Algeria because of the country’s poor human rights record.

Independent group Human Rights Watch visited Algeria in June 2005 and concluded that the authorities continue to practise torture, especially during interrogation of security suspects.

A decision to return home voluntarily would end a huge headache for the British government.

Home secretary Charles Clarke has been attempting to secure a diplomatic deal with Algeria designed to guarantee that anyone returned to Algiers would not be harmed.

It has been reported that the proposed agreement resembles the memoranda of understanding (MOUs) that the Home Office has already reached with Jordan, Lebanon and Libya. Under these memoranda, the receiving governments provide “diplomatic assurances” that they will not mistreat persons transferred to their territory.

But last week it was reported that negotiations between the two governments had stalled because Algiers disagreed with a crucial British demand.

A Home Office spokesman said: “Individuals on deportation orders are free to leave the country voluntarily at any time.

“We do not comment on individual cases.”

It was expected that the Home secretary would support an application for voluntary return in these circumstances.

A package of financial and other help may be available to Mr A and the other Algerians, but eligibility is decided on a case-by-case basis.

Mr A was granted anonymity by Siac following his initial arrest under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, on December 19, 2001.

His strict bail conditions mean that he must stay at home at all times except for two hours in the early afternoon.

There are also very tight restrictions on who he can meet, and he must stay within a certain distance of his home.

Mr A and his family are also prohibited from having mobile phones and the internet in their house.