On 23 June, Palestinian refugee Mahmoud Abu Rideh appeared at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) to appeal against his continued detention without trial under the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.
32-year-old Mahmoud was arrested in December 2001 soon after new ‘anti-terror’ legislation came into force in the UK, as a result of the September 11 attacks. He is accused of involvement with Osama bin Laden, Abu Hamza the ex-cleric of Finsbury Park mosque and fund-raising for Al Qaeda.
Mahmoud came to the UK in 1995 and was granted refugee status in 1997. The Home Office accepted Mahmoud’s claim that he had been a victim of torture while imprisoned in Israel. Mahmoud, who was initially held at Belmarsh high security prison, where he was locked up for 22 hours a day, has been on hunger strikes to protest at his continued detention and has a history of self-harm. In July 2002, he was transferred to Broadmoor high security psychiatric hospital, on the orders of home secretary David Blunkett, where he has remained since.
The hearing at the SIAC is being held in secret. A special advocate, who has been security-cleared by MI5 and MI6 and appointed by the Attorney General, is allowed to see the secret evidence that is used to justify continued detention. But the accused and his lawyers are not allowed to see this evidence.
An unidentified member of the security services has given evidence, allegedly, connecting Mahmoud to terrorism. This witness was cross-examined in closed hearings in front of a panel of three judges.
The hearing continues.
Fourteen other foreign nationals have also been arrested and detained without trial under the same legislation. Two men have ‘voluntarily’ left the UK; the others remain in detention, charged with no specific crimes but suspected of involvement with terrorism. All bail applications for the men have been refused.
In July 2002, their detention was ruled illegal by the SIAC because it discriminated against foreign nationals. However the government appealed against the decision and, in October 2002, the Court of Appeal ruled that the powers of detention were not discriminatory and that they complied with the European Convention on Human Rights.
Earlier this year, on 19 May, the SIAC began hearing the first appeals from the other men detained without trial under the legislation. They have all been accused of providing ‘critical assistance’ to terrorists. The appeals are expected to last several months.