Algerian terror suspects want to go home
· Hunger strikers’ letter to Guardian tells of despair
· They say torture better than ‘cruelty’ in Britain
Vikram Dodd, The Guardian, April 26, 2006
Four Algerians detained for up to four years without charge or trial as terrorist suspects say they will return home to face torture because they can no longer face the « cruelty » Britain has inflicted on them. In a letter to the Guardian, the four men, who are held in Long Lartin prison, say they have been on hunger strike for a week in protest at their treatment.
The men were arrested in August and September last year and told they would be deported because they posed a threat to national security. The men and their supporters say they face torture if returned to Algeria, and the government has been trying to negotiate a deal whereby Algeria would promise not to ill-treat any deported terrorism suspects.
They also say that since they agreed three weeks ago to leave Britain, the Home Office has not cooperated with the Algerian authorities in facilitating their return.
In the letter the four say: « We know that we face torture in our country of origin but some of us have come to the decision that a quick death is preferable to the slow death we feel we are enduring here. »
The four, who cannot be named for legal reasons, continue: « We have watched some of our members go mad under the strain; we have watched our families suffer and some of us believe that the only thing that we can do is to go forward into the fire even though we believe we will be burned. »
The Home Office says 29 foreign nationals have been ordered to be deported since July 7 2005, because they are alleged to be a threat to national security. A Home Office spokesman could not say how many were still in detention or on bail, what their nationalities were, or whether they had been previously tried and acquitted. Details of the four willing to return are sketchy, but at least two were detained without charge or trial in maximum security prisons, then subjected to control orders before being arrested last year and threatened with deportation. One was acquitted of the ricin plot after the crown dropped the case against him.
The four say the outside world is largely ignorant of their plight: « We know that the population at large in this country, including Muslims, knows nothing of what has happened to us. We write to ask that you help us break the silence. We are all on hunger strike and have been so now for a week. »
The letter from the four came as another Algerian began an appeal against the government’s decision to deport him.
The man, known only as Y, was cleared by a jury of involvement in the plot to produce the poison ricin and attack London with it. No ricin was ever produced, it later emerged, and yesterday the government told the hearing the man was the leader of an Algerian terrorist group, the DHDS, and had been a keyholder at the Finsbury Park mosque, which was linked to terrorism through the cleric Abu Hamza.
The government also says Y would not be at risk of ill treatment if deported to Algeria.
A Home Office spokesman said of the four Algerians: « We want to facilitate their return as soon as possible. »