Blair Angry As LIbyan Qaeda Suspects Win UK Appeal

Blair angry as Libyan Qaeda suspects win UK appeal

Fri 27 Apr 2007, 14:19 GMT

(Updates with Blair, solicitors, Amnesty comment)

LONDON, April 27 (Reuters) – Two Libyans accused of being linked to al Qaeda won an appeal against their forced removal from Britain in a test case on Friday, prompting an angry response from Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The men, identified only as DD and AS, said they would be mistreated because of their religious and political beliefs if they were sent back to Libya.

Britain's Home Office, which argued the men were a threat to national security, had attempted to deport them under the terms of a 2005 memo of understanding between London and Tripoli which promises that suspects deported to Libya would not face torture, mistreatment or the death penalty.

But the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) in London ruled the men should be allowed their appeal as “there was a real risk” their human rights could be breached if they returned.

“There is also real risk that the trial of the appellants would amount to a complete denial of a fair trial,” it added.

The British government said it would appeal the ruling.

“In order to be able to give a strong signal that those people cannot get away with what they want to do, we have to be able to deport people and send them back to their own country,” Blair said.

“It's very hard for someone in my position, who is charged with the responsibility for trying to protect our country's security, to be told that if there were doubts raised about the political system in the countries from which these people come, I can't return them to that country when they are a menace and a threat to people in this country.”

The case was the first challenge to the 2005 agreement.

A lawyer for DD said the court's decision should open the way for other Libyans to be freed.

The Home Office said: “We believe that the assurances given to us by the Libyans do provide effective safeguards for the proper treatment of individuals being returned and do ensure that their rights will be respected.”

Under human rights laws, Britain needs guarantees from countries that deportees will not be mistreated at home.

Britain has signed similar agreements with Jordan and Lebanon that deportees will not be mistreated.

Halya Gowan, deputy director of Amnesty International, Europe and Central Asia, said: “It indicates that the memoranda of understanding the UK authorities have signed with governments of countries known to use torture should be rescinded and no other such documents should be negotiated.”

In February, the SIAC ruled that radical Islamic cleric Abu Qatada could be deported to Jordan despite the likelihood he would face a flawed trial there.

DD and AS were granted bail. The terms are yet to be finalised.

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