We have the first fake terror scare since the election – and Theresa May has jumped in on the authoritarian side.
The BBC states that:
The alleged leader of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb targets in north-west England has won his appeal against deportation.
A special immigration court said Abid Naseer was an al-Qaeda operative – but could not be deported because he faced torture or death back home in Pakistan
Note the alleged. The truth is that there is no evidence to convict Abid Nasser of anything. What they have is intelligence reports from Pakistan, certainly obtained under torture, and a communications intercept in which Abid Naseer talked of a wedding. As Sky News has been explaining all evening, the security services believe “wedding” is a code for a bombing.
On May 24, 2007 I blogged this:
Finally, a thought on communications intercepts. The government remain deeply opposed to the use of these in court. I am in favour. If surveillance has been properly and legally carried out, it should be admissible. The truth of the matter is that the Government does not want revealed how weak its so-called intelligence often is.
I can give one example. According to the US intercept agency the NSA, Al-Qaida frequently use the word “Wedding” as code for a suicide bombing. I recall as Ambassador being deluged with intercepts of “suspicious” conversations like “We’re going to a wedding in Bokhara.” Of such flimsy stuff is most of the material. If they keep it from court scrutiny, they can persuade natural authoritarian brown-nosers like Michael White to publish that it is “Solid”.
What is happening now is precisely the same circumstance I blogged about then. An innocent man is branded a terrorist by the security services, with no evidence that can be put before a jury. The media all then repeat it to ramp up the fear factor.
You may recall that in the current case, Gordon Brown had stated this was “a very big terror plot”. But the students arrested had no bombs, no weapons and possessed nothing at all connecting them to terrorism. The police announced they had found “a potential component of a bomb”. It turned out that this was less than a quarter of a kilo of sugar in the kitchen.
What is a disgrace is the “Special Immigration Tribunal” which decided not to deport Abid Nasser, but to brand him a terrorist. These tribunals are an affront to every principle of justice. The security services presented evidence against Abid Nasser in secret. Meither Nasser nor his lawyer was allowed to see the evidence against him. It is on the basis of this secret evidence – to which Nasser had no opportunity to make a reply – that Mr Justice Mitting stated that he was satisfied Nasser was an al-Qaida operative.
Mr Justice Mitting is a complete disgrace to the British judiciary. That he should make such a pronouncement on a man who was not allowed to defend himself shows that he has no place on any bench.
The fact that no criminal prosecution has been brought against Nasser, because of insufficient evidence, underlines the fact that Mitting is a reactionary well suited to his role in a court with as much connection to justice as the Committee of Public Safety.
My good friend and old boss Sir Brian Barder by no means shares my liberal views. He supports, for example, the FCO line that it is right to accept intelligence gained from torture by friendly security services, if it helps combat terrorism. But Brian resigned as a judge from the special immigration tribunal precisely because he believed it was completely unacceptable that they heard evidence which the accused were not allowed to answer. The truth is that only extreme reactionaries like Mr Justice Mitting, people with no concern at all for natural justice, could consent to take part in ths farcical kangaroo court.
Theresa May, our new Home Secretary has been very happy to jump on the Islamophobic bandwagon. Lib Dems should point out that the real lesson of this case is the need to abolish the star chamber secret Special Immigration Appeal Courts, which should have no place in any democracy.