On Sunday 3 October over 300 people – campaigners, families and concerned individuals – gathered outside Belmarsh prison to protest against the detention without trial of eleven men, all ‘foreign nationals’ and all Muslim.
On 19 December 2001, just three months after the September 11 attacks, the British government arrested eight men under the Anti-terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 (ATCSA), suspected of involvement in international terrorism. Since then, a further eight men have been arrested under the same legislation. Out of the total sixteen men, two have chosen to leave the UK, leaving fourteen being held in maximum-security prisons like Belmarsh and Woodhill. Mahmoud Abu Rideh, a Palestinian refugee, who was tortured in Israel, is being held at Broadmoor maximum-security hospital where, he has made numerous attempts to take his life.
This year has seen the release of three of the men. M, a 35-year-old Libyan, was released from Belmarsh in March after the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) ruled that he was not linked to terrorism. In April, G, a 35-year-old Algerian, was released on bail from Belmarsh, electronically tagged and placed under house arrest. (The SIAC released him on bail because he has developed mental health problems as a result of being detained without charge.)
Two weeks ago, Blunkett, released another man, an Algerian man referred to as D. He was released because the ‘weight of evidence’ no longer justified his continued detention.
Eleven men, some of whom have been held for nearly three years without trial, await the House of Lords’ decision on appeals against their detention without trial and whether evidence obtained through torture, can be used.