Thursday, August 2, 2007
Court blocks deportation of Algerians
Court blocks deportation of Algerians
Mon Jul 30, 2007 6:27PM BST
By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent
LONDON (Reuters) - Three Algerian men won an appeal against deportation on Monday in a blow to the government's efforts to throw out suspected foreign militants it views as a threat to national security.
The Court of Appeal said a lower court had not properly considered whether one of the men was at risk of torture on his return to Algeria. Secrecy surrounded its ruling on the two others, which the court said was based on "closed evidence" it could not reveal.
Lawyers and civil rights groups welcomed the decision to block the deportations but condemned the lack of openness.
"We are deeply concerned about the unnecessary secrecy that continues to surround these cases," said Alex Gask, legal officer at rights group Liberty.
Amnesty International said it was "doubly disturbing" the two men had been told neither of the government's case against them nor the grounds for Monday's decision.
"The principle that justice should not only be done but be seen to be done seems to have been turned on its head," it said, adding that Algerian military intelligence "routinely detains and abuses" terrorist suspects.
No comment was available from the Algerian embassy.
The court referred all three cases back to the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), a tribunal which has spent years deliberating the fate of around 15 Algerians the British government wants to expel.
"BIN LADEN LINK"
The government acknowledged the three men -- whom media are only allowed to identify by their initials -- could not be deported for the time being.
But it said it hoped SIAC, which must now re-examine the case in the light of the Appeal Court ruling, would go on to find they could safely be sent home to Algeria.
The three include one man, U, who the government says had direct ties to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and supported militants behind bomb plots in 1999 and 2000 against Los Angeles airport and a Christmas market in Strasbourg, France.
The Court of Appeal said that, on the "open evidence" available to it, SIAC was right to conclude Britain could deport U to Algeria without breaching its human rights obligations.
But it said its confidence in that conclusion was undermined by other, secret evidence submitted to it.
"We cannot, of course, explain in any detail why we have reached that view. All we can say is that we have been shown closed evidence which is capable of undermining SIAC's overall conclusion," its written ruling said.
Gareth Peirce, U's solicitor, said she had no idea what the closed evidence contained.
"It's a complete nightmare of comprehension," she told reporters, adding she would seek bail for her clients.
The Home Office said it welcomed the Court of Appeal's endorsement of its approach on seeking case-by-case assurances from the Algerian government that deported individuals would be well treated.
"It is our belief that it is safe to deport to Algeria on the basis of assurances," it said in a statement.
"It remains our intention to remove these individuals, whom the Home Secretary considers pose a threat to national security, as soon as we are able to do so."
© Reuters 2006.
10 jailed in Strasbourg Christmas bomb plot
PARIS, Dec 16 (AFP) - A French court on Thursday sentenced 10 people to prison terms of up to 10 years for taking part in a conspiracy to blow up a Christmas market in the eastern city of Strasbourg.
Mohamed Bensakhria and Slimane Khalfaoui, said to be the group's leaders, were given 10 years, and Mohamed Yacine Aknouche was given eight.
Rabah Kadri - who is in detention in Britain after being arrested in 2002 under that country's anti-terrorism laws in connection with a reported attempt to attack the London Underground - was given six years and was banned from entering French territory.
They and the others, who received terms of six years or less, were all found guilty of "criminal association with a terrorist enterprise."
The men provided logistical support for a group of Islamists based in the German city of Frankfurt, who were arrested in possession of plans to blow up the Strasbourg market in December 2000.
Four members of the Frankfurt group were sentenced to between 10 and 12 years in jail by a German court last year.
The 10 in France were charged with being directly involved in the plot, which was to have used a timer connected to explosives to wreak havoc at the Strasbourg Christmas market, a picturesque stretch of decorated stands that attracts tens of thousands of shoppers each year.
Others sentenced were: Meroine Berrahal, who got six years; Laurent Djoumakh, also six years; Lazhar Tlili, a Tunisian given five years; and Samir Korchi, four years.
The last two, Nicolas Belloni and Abdelkader Tcharek, were sentenced respectively to three years and two and a half years, but were given an 18 months' suspension in each case.
Defence lawyers called the jail terms too severe, with one, Karim Beylouni, saying his client, Aknouche, had been arrested for a "virtual crime" not carried out. Aknouche had been in a German prison during the planning for the attack.
Khalfaoui's lawyer, Isabelle Coutant-Peyre (also the lawyer - and wife - of the jailed terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal), said the judgements showed that "French institutions are racist, anti-Arab and Islamophobic."
The four arrested and sentenced in Germany last year were all French citizens of Algerian origin.
One of them, Djillali Benali, said during the trial that he had trained at an Islamic militants' camp in Afghanistan but that he had not planned the Strasbourg attack on the orders of Osama bin Laden or his al-Qaeda network.
Three of the accused admitting attempting to bomb a deserted synagogue in Strasbourg in late January or early February 2001 and said their sentences should be light because no one would have been hurt.
Federal prosecutors had tried to draw a link between the group and al-Qaeda, but the defendants repeatedly denied any ties and the prosecutors dropped the charge in January as it would have been too time consuming to prove.
The four were arrested on December 26, 2000 during a police raid in Frankfurt in which explosives, weapons and the videotape were seized.
UK extraditing Algerian terror suspect to France
COTIGNAC, France, June 22, 2006 (AFP) - Britain is in the process of extraditing to France an Algerian national convicted over a failed plot to blow up a busy Christmas market in 2000, French Justice Minister Pascal Clement said Thursday.
Rabah Kadri, tried in absentia in 2004, was handed a six-year prison sentence over his role in the conspiracy to attack the market in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.
The target of an international arrest warrant issued by a French judge, the Algerian had been detained in Britain since his arrest in 2002 in connection with a reported attempt to attack the London Underground.
He was due to arrive at the military airport of Villacoublay west of Paris on Thursday afternoon, where he was to be brought immediately before a Paris prosecutor to be informed of his conviction.
He will start serving his term immediately if he accepts his conviction, or will be granted a retrial if he contests it, Clement told reporters.
The Strasbourg plot was to have used a timer connected to explosives to wreak havoc at the city's Christmas market, a picturesque stretch of decorated stands that attracts tens of thousands of shoppers each year.
Four member of a group of Islamists based in the German city of Frankfurt, arrested in possession of plans to blow up the market, arms and explosives, were handed jail terms of 10 to 12 years by a German court in 2003.
Kadri was one of 10 people based in France, who were handed prison terms of up to 10 years for providing logistical support to the Frankfurt Islamists.
Clement announced Kadri's extradition during a meeting in the southeastern town of Cotignac.
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