Enemies of the state? Police fail even to question
men held as a terror threat
Suspected of plotting terror, a group of men have been held for four
years but never charged. Now, in their first testimonies, they
reveal the authorities have not even questioned them since their
By Nigel Morris
Home Affairs Correspondent
Independent" -- -- Four men deprived of their liberty
for four years on suspicion of being international terrorists
disclose today that they have not once been questioned by police or
security services since being arrested.
The four, who were among 16 suspects detained without trial under
post-11 September terror legislation, later overturned by the law
lords, give harrowing accounts of the treatment they have suffered.
All are now under virtual house arrest. Although three face
deportation, The Independent has learnt that there is no prospect of
the men ever being questioned over the offences they are alleged to
In interviews with Amnesty International, the four - three Algerians
and a Palestinian - say their detentions have harmed their physical
and mental health. They also complain that their treatment has had a
devastating impact on their wives and families.
The men were interned in Belmarsh jail in south-east London - which
has been called Britain's Guantanamo Bay - and other high security
prisons in conditions consistently condemned by human rights
organisations. Their detentions were ruled illegal by the law lords
a year ago and they have since been released on control orders with
tough restrictions on leaving home.
Three were re-arrested in August under immigration powers pending
deportation and released by the Special Immigration Appeals
Commission Act (Siac) in October on very strict bail conditions
amounting to house arrest. One of them told Amnesty: "We've been
moving from one nightmare to another."
Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International, met the
Palestinian Mahmoud Abu Rideh and an Algerian man known as "H" at
their homes in the past month and spent about an hour with each of
them, together with their wives. She said: "Both men expressed a
profound sense of injustice that their liberty had been taken from
them without their ever being charged, tried or shown any evidence
against them. Both expressed amazement that this could happen in a
country like the UK.
"But what struck me most was the impact that the detention and
subsequent house arrest of these men has had on their partners and
their families. Abu Rideh's house doesn't feel like the kind of
bustling home you would expect of a family with five children. It is
silent, sad and isolated. Friends and family are scared to visit -
to do so they have to submit their name and photo to the Home
Office, and in effect become a "known associate of a terrorist
The disclosure that the men have not been interviewed by the
authorities will embarrass ministers, who have claimed that the men
present such a terrorist threat that they have to be permanently
In a report today on the plight of the so-called Belmarsh detainees,
Amnesty calls for charges to be brought against them or for the
restrictions on their freedom to be lifted. A spokesman said: "Is
this really what we call justice in this country? These men have had
their liberty taken from them for four years yet they haven't even
been charged and tried, let alone found guilty of anything. What's
really shocking is that these men, supposedly 'suspected
international terrorists', have never once been questioned since
The four - Abu Rideh and the Algerians, known as "A", "G" and "H" -
were interviewed by Amnesty. All complained of mental health
problems including depression and said that their transfer from jail
to house arrest had prolonged their ordeals.
"A" said: "I am basically locked up at home for 24 hours a day ...
the pressure of this situation is enormous on my family."
"G" complains: "Although I have access to my garden (albeit for a
limited portion of the day) I fear that if I reply to any one of my
neighbours saying 'hello' to me I will be in breach of my bail
conditions. So, I don't even go out in the garden. Every night I
fear that the police will come and arrest me again. I feel like I
have lost all access to a normal life." Abu Rideh, who has made at
least four suicide attempts, says: "I can't sleep. I spend all my
time in the house. I don't go outside much; I'm just not up to it."
A Home Office spokesman said last night: "Obviously bail conditions
are set by Siac that are considered necessary to address the risk of
absconding and to protect national security."
The spokesman did not deny that the detainees had never been
questioned by police over the past four years. He said: "We never
discuss individual cases." However, one security source said: "We
believe these men are dangerous, but they cannot be prosecuted.
Under those circumstances there's little point interviewing them."
But Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said:
"The fact that no questioning has taken place since arrest suggests
that little effort has been made to explore the possibility of
criminal charges. If that is the case it is completely unacceptable
... These men have been left in a legal limbo which is contrary to
every tradition of justice in this country. Indefinite detention has
taken an appalling toll on their mental health, just as it has with
the Guantanamo Bay prisoners."
Amnesty is calling for immediate action: "If there is evidence
against them, they should be charged with a recognisably criminal
offence and tried in a British court," said Ms Allen. "Both
expressed a wish for fair treatment, not special treatment - that
the authorities should show them whatever evidence has condemned
them to this limbo, and give them a chance to refute it in court.
All they want is justice."
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