- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 31, 2002

From combined dispatches

LONDON Nine foreign terror suspects being held in Britain without trial won an appeal against their detention yesterday in a major blow to the government's new anti-terrorism laws.

A panel of three senior judges ruled that the men's detention under laws rushed through Parliament after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington was unlawful.

But they are unlikely to be released immediately because the British government said it would challenge the decision.

The decision undermines Home Secretary David Blunkett's Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, which allows foreign nationals suspected of involvement in terrorism to be detained indefinitely without charge and trial.

The judges, sitting as the Special Immigration Appeals Commission, said the act was discriminatory because it allowed the detention of foreigners only, even though British citizens may have been equally involved with al Qaeda or other terror organizations.

The Home Office said it was disappointed that the panel had found the law discriminated against foreign nationals.

"The home secretary has used his powers to detain these individuals on the basis of detailed and compelling evidence," it said in a statement.

"This evidence will be considered in court in the autumn, when individual cases will be heard, as provided under the act," it added.

John Wadham, director of civil liberties group Liberty, which supported the men's appeal, said the detentions violated human rights.

"The government should use this opportunity to revise this unfair law and end internment," Mr. Wadham said. "Those detained should be charged if there is any evidence against them, or released immediately if not."

Within days of the powers coming into effect in December, the security services and police seized 11 foreign nationals. Their names and nationalities have not been revealed.

They were imprisoned after the government opted out from a clause in the European Convention on Human Rights that offers protection against detention without charge or trial. Two have since been released.

The men's lawyers challenged claims that Britain was facing an exceptional national emergency and that their detention was justified and proportionate.

It was the first time the panel had examined the legality of the new powers.

Lawyers for the detainees argued earlier this month that their clients are being deprived of their legal and human rights.

They say the men have been denied family visits and phone calls for months, are sometimes kept in single cells for 22 hours a day and are strip-searched before and after every visit.

The Home Office has denied the charges.

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