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Thursday, August 11, 2005 

Bearded extremist deports other bearded extremists.

Human rights groups have expressed fears over the fate of 10 people facing deportation from the UK because they pose a threat to national security.

The Jordanian cleric Abu Qatada, who is subject to a control order, is among them, the BBC has learned.

Charles Clarke said things had changed since the London bombings. It was vital to act against threats to the UK.

Tories backed Mr Clarke but critics are concerned at deportations to countries with poor human rights records.

The home secretary insists he has the necessary reassurances from Jordan that deportees would not be "subject to torture or ill-treatment".

Shami Chakrabarti, of human rights group Liberty, said it would take "more than a piece of paper to convince me that Jordan and some of these other possible north African and Middle Eastern regimes are suddenly safe".

And Amnesty International's Mike Blakemore said the assurances the government was trying to obtain were not worth the "paper they were written on".

"We are taking the word of known torturers that they won't do this again," he said.

Some additional info from the Grauniad:

A statement from the solicitor for some of the individuals detained today said families had been told they were being taken to Woodhill high security prison near Milton Keynes but might now have been moved again.

It also confirmed one of the 10 was detained at a psychiatric hospital and that five in all were suffering serious psychiatric conditions.

Although the statement did not name him, the former Belmarsh detainee Mahmoud Suliman Ahmed Abu Rideh is known to have been at Broadmoor high security hospital in Berkshire.

Once again, we are not being told of any of the reasons why these people are being deported, simply that they are viewed as a threat to national security. This is not good enough. Why can we not try these people in this country? Is the reason once again the fact the security services will not allow phone-tap evidence to be presented to the courts? Or is it simply because the allegations made against these men by the security services would not stand up in court?

We need to be told the true basis for why these men need to be deported right now. If Abu Rideh is also one of the men to be deported, that's at least two that are also under control orders. The replacement for detention without trial, the person under the control order cannot receive visitors without authorisation from the police or MI5. They cannot access the internet. They are under curfew. Essentially, they are under a much stricter form of house arrest. Why, when they are held under such draconian measures and are clearly a threat only to themselves, do they now need to be deported?

As Amnesty says, the assurance that the men will not be tortured in the country they are deported to is not worth the paper it is written on. At the moment, the only thing the government is interested in doing is grandstanding for the tabloids. They are effectively showing that they are taking some additional action. It doesn't matter if the action sends the accused into a hell even worse than being detained without trial in Belmarsh, not knowing why. After all, these men weren't going to cure cancer. Just get these terrorist fanatics out, and we'll deal with the blowback later.

Another bearded extremist tabloid favourite is also in the news:

The British-based radical Muslim cleric Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed was today detained in Lebanon by the Lebanese authorities.

"Sheikh Bakri was picked up by security forces as he was on his way to a local television station for an interview," a Lebanese security source told Reuters. It is believed Mr Bakri's links to militant groups are being investigated.

The Foreign Office confirmed that the cleric was being held, but said it was not at Britain's request.

Will he emerge from Lebanon to return to Britain? I don't want to be the next Mystic Meg, but I think it's pretty damn unlikely.

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