Bail for terror suspect
Adam Jay and agencies
Monday January 31, 2005
Mahmoud Abu Rideh, one of 11 foreign nationals detained in the UK without charge or trial on suspicion of terrorism, was granted bail today.
The decision, by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac), came after the Home Office decided not to oppose his bail application, which was made on the day last month that the law lords ruled the powers under which he is held breached human rights laws.
Mr Abu Rideh, a Palestinian, has been held at the high-security Broadmoor psychiatric hospital since his mental health deteriorated while he was being detained at Belmarsh prison. The decision to release him followed a two-day bail hearing on December 16 and 17 last year.
In a written judgment given today, Mr Justice Ouseley said Mr Abu Rideh would be granted bail due to the deterioration in his mental health. Doctors have found that "Belmarsh had been severely damaging and that in Broadmoor the applicant's condition had been affected by the fact of indefinite detention without trial, subject to the regime of a high security hospital".
Mr Justice Ouseley said: "The longer the applicant was detained, the more dependent and institutionalised he became and 'deskilled' in coping in the community."
He added: "We accept that his mental health condition could be treated and treated better were he at home, although there is a distinct possibility that he might require treatment in a hospital at some future date. Treatment, through support visits, may be daily or weekly or fortnightly.""Continued detention for this particular detainee is becoming a disproportionate response to the risk in view of other methods of control which can be put in place."
But he conceded that Mr Abu Rideh remained "rightly certified as a suspected international terrorist who is, on sound ground, believed to be a risk to national security". The central allegation against Abu Rideh is that he has been involved in fundraising and distribution of funds for terrorist groups with links to al-Qaida. He claims to be concerned only with welfare projects.
Mr Justice Ouseley said there was only a limited basis for concern that Mr Abu Rideh would abscond but there is a real concern he would resume at home "some of the activities which he undertook before his detention". His wife would play a role in preventing bail conditions being breached, the judge added.
A Home Office spokesman had earlier said that bail was no longer being opposed ... "but we will argue that the conditions imposed must be appropriate to address the threat that he poses. Siac has stated that there will be a further hearing for the bail conditions to be finally determined. Mr Rideh will not, therefore, be released from detention today."
Mr Rideh's imminent release comes after more than three years in custody. He was arrested by police in December 2001, just five days after the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, which sanctioned detention without charge or trial, gained royal assent. Two previous attempts to gain his freedom had failed.
Three other detainees - two Algerians known as A and P, and an Egyptian known as C - are also applying for bail today.
Ben Emmerson QC, who represents A and P, said they only wanted bail if they were not placed under house arrest, which would amount to a breach of human rights. "This would be replacing one type of indefinite detention without trial with another," he said.
Ian Burnett QC said the home secretary, Charles Clarke, did not oppose bail as long as the two men were freed under the same bail conditions as those applied to G, the first of the detainees to be freed on bail last April.
G, who was freed on mental health grounds, is under house arrest, has an electronic tag and cannot use the internet. Mr Emmerson said those conditions had "placed an intolerable burden on his family".
Speaking about P, who is a double amputee, has no family and is suffering from a depressive illness, Mr Emmerson said: "It would be inhuman and extremely dangerous to place him in a tiny flat somewhere, without any means of contact with the outside world.
"Whether the detention is in Belmarsh or in a flat at Bermondsey, it is still indefinite detention without trial on suspicion alone." He said the House of Lords had ruled that was "unacceptable in a democracy".
Mr Emmerson said A and P would be guinea pigs for Mr Clarke's proposals - announced last week - to replace the detention of terror suspects without trial with a system of control orders.
Bail conditions that A and P would agree to could include a condition of residence at a specified address, electronic tagging, the prohibition of contact with named people, the telephone being monitored by consent, and a curfew, Mr Emmerson said. He said the men should be allowed to leave the place of residence for some part of the day "so that this doesn't amount to a complete deprivation of their liberty".
The cases of A and P will resume tomorrow in a closed session