By JAMES SLACK and IAN DRURY, Daily Mail07:46am 13th April 2006
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Taking away the passport of a terror suspect who wanted to travel to Iraq to fight British troops was a breach of his human rights, a judge ruled yesterday.
The High Court said the way the Government had imposed a control order on the man - stopped at Manchester airport en route to the Middle East - was an "affront to justice".
Mr Justice Sullivan's ruling raises the prospect of the 22-year-old student having his travel passport returned. A further 11 terror suspects currently under the controversial control orders could also be freed without restriction.
The Government plans to appeal the crushing verdict, but critics said its attempts to impose strict conditions on terror suspects who cannot be imprisoned were now "in tatters". The Conservatives said the mess had been of the Government's own making. Labour passed the Human Rights Act in the first place, then refused to listen to warnings that parts of it must be repealed to protect the public.
Shadow Home Secretary David Davis said: "If this judicial judgment cannot be overturned we will find that, yet again, the Government's incompetence has put the liberty and safety of our citizens at risk."
The student, whose identity is being protected by the courts, was stopped by police and MI5 as he prepared to board a flight to Syria last March. After interrogation, Home Secretary Charles Clarke was warned the man, an Arab granted British citizenship, had been intending to join the insurgency against British and US troops in neighbouring Iraq.
He imposed a control order on the man, known only as MB, which forced him to hand over his passport, report to police every day, stay away from airports and train stations and not possess international travel tickets.
But the terror suspect, who claims he was travelling to Syria on holiday, complained his human rights had been breached. His lawyers demanded the return of his passport.
Yesterday, Mr Justice Sullivan allowed the appeal in a ruling which left Downing Street and the Home Office in shock. The judge said the control order system was "conspicuously unfair" and the court would be failing in its duty unless it said so "loud and clear".
Although the Government had tried to apply a "thin veneer of legality" to the measures, he said it was impossible to disguise that suspects' rights were being determined by the Home Secretary with no effective oversight by judges.
The main problem was that suspects have no opportunity to put their case at the time control orders are imposed.
Mr Justice Sullivan - who stressed the Human Rights Act had been imposed upon judges by Parliament - said: "The issue raised in these proceedings is whether the Act gives the respondent the fair hearing to which he is entitled. The answer to that question is no."
Although MB's control order will stay in place for the time being, the Government's anti-terror laws were "incompatible" with the European Convention on Human Rights as enshrined in the Human Rights Act, he said.
Mr Clarke was granted leave to appeal to the Court of Appeal and the Home Office insisted the controversial laws would carry on unaffected by the ruling.
But if the withering verdict is upheld, Ministers will have to make a desperate Parliamentary attempt to save the legislation. If this fails, control orders could be scrapped, opponents said. It would lead to the return of MB's passport and leave the Government with no effective way of controlling terror suspects who there is insufficient admissible evidence to convict in court.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "This completely scandalous system of punishment without trial is definitely in tatters.
"This policy - like its predecessor legislation, the Belmarsh disgrace - has been rightly and roundly condemned by the High Court.
"The Government now has no alternative but to go back to the drawing board. This time they must respect our most ancient of rights - the right to a fair trial."
MB's solicitor, Muddassar Arani, said: "We believe he should ultimately get his passport returned. If and when the Government have exhausted all routes of appeal and it is not rescued by the courts then that will spell the end of control orders under the Act."
She added: "He just wanted to go on holiday. He was not going to Iraq. He was going to Syria."
The independent reviewer of the Government's anti-terror laws, Lord Carlile, said if the appeal was not successful ministers would have to amend the law. The Government may have to hesitate before issuing further control orders.
He added: "I am very concerned that if there are people who present a danger to national security there should be a proportional and Human Rights Act-compatible response available to the state."
Control orders were introduced by the Prevention of Terrorism Act last March after Law Lords declared the previous legislation - which allowed indefinite detention without trial or charge - to be incompatible with human rights.
MB's case is the first of 12 coming up for review by the High Court. The Home Office said it "did not accept" the judgment that control orders were
incompatible with Article Six, which demands the right to a fair trial. A spokesman said: "In our view the 2005 Act is fully ECHR compliant and contains rigorous safeguards to protect the rights of the individual, including judicial oversight and reporting and reviewing requirements. Accordingly, we plan to appeal. The ruling will not limit the operation of the Act.
"We will not be revoking either the control order which was the subject of this review, nor any of the other control orders currently in force on the back of this judgment.
"Nor will the judgment prevent the Secretary of State from making control orders on suspected terrorists where he considers it necessary to do so in the interests of national security in future.
"The Government believes that control orders are the best way of addressing the continuing threat posed by suspected terrorists who cannot currently be prosecuted or, in respect of foreign nationals, removed from the UK."
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw may be forced to plead with the Americans to release an Australian terror suspect from Guantanamo Bay after the former outback cowboy won his battle for UK citizenship.
Muslim convert David Hicks, 31, was dubbed the 'Australian Taliban' after his arrest in Afghanistan in 2001. He is accused by the US of attending an Al Qaeda training camp and fighting against British and American troops.
The Australian government has refused to press for his release, but now Hicks has successfully used the fact that his mother was born in London to claim British citizenship.
Yesterday three Appeal Court judges unanimously threw out Charles Clarke's efforts to block his British passport application.
He will now urge the Foreign Office to secure his freedom - as it already has done for all nine UK detainees who were locked up in at Camp X-Ray.
nope, fair's fair, his human rights have been breached, and taht the government has considered abrogating it's responsibilities under Human Rights legislation is very depressing.
What should happen, is he gets his passport back, and then gets re-arrested for taking up arms against the Queen, do we still have hanging for Treason?