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Tuesday, December 02, 2008 

From Stalinesque to Kafkaesque.

While opposition politicians talk of "Stalinesque" arrests and newspapers suddenly decide we're living in a police state, not helped admittedly by a Home Secretary with an apparent tin ear and a police force that wouldn't know subtlety if it shot it 7 times in the head, a genuinely Kafkaesque farce has been continuing concerning someone not as obviously deserving of protection as Damian Green.

Abu Qatada has then been sent back to jail, not for breaching his bail conditions, and not because there was any actual evidence that he was going to breach them, but because secret evidence which Qatada and his lawyers could neither see nor challenge suggested that due to a change in circumstances the chance that he might attempt to abscond had increased.

To suggest that the decision is baffling is to put it mildly. None of the evidence which the Home Office presented in open court in front of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission came close to convincing the commission that Qatada was either about to abscond or that he had breached his bail conditions. Indeed, despite presenting such diverse "evidence" as the fact that Qatada had recorded his children a message on the importance of Eid, had mp3 players, memory cards, video tapes and computer discs in his possession, and that a senior member of al-Qaida had recorded an audio-tape addressing a sheikh on the state of the jihad in Afghanistan, which also called if possible for the sheikh to come and inspire the mujahideen on the front line, the Home Secretary herself, or those acting for her, accepted that Qatada had not breached his bail conditions.

Qatada then finds himself back in prison due to evidence which he has not been informed of, cannot challenge and which in any event only increased the risk that he might attempt to abscond. If nothing else, it's an indictment of the police and security services that despite the imposition of some of the most severe bail restrictions of recent times, with Qatada tagged and only allowed to leave his house for 2 hours a day at set times, doubtless followed during that time and with his house and calls bugged, they still couldn't guarantee that they would be able to track him down were he to attempt to escape or someone to attempt to help him.

Interestingly enough, especially considering the on-going outcry over the arrest of Green, the taking back into custody of Qatada was punctuated by leaks to the Sun, presumably from the Home Office, first of Qatada's renewed detention and then the allegation that Omar Bakri Muhammad was, rather less credibly, "masterminding the plot" to get Qatada out of the UK and to Lebanon, where Muhammad has lived since his presence here was ruled to be not conducive to the public good. As the "evidence" involving Bakri was not given in open court, it either made up part of the case heard in secret, or was just the complete and utter nonsense which the paper often prints about Bakri. While we're hardly likely to become aware whether it was used in the secret sessions, if it was that's a potentially far more serious breach of security than anything that Green is currently alleged to have done.

Qatada finds himself then in utter limbo. Unable to return to Jordan where his trial was tainted by torture, facing the possibility of two further appeals against that decision, both to the Lords and the ECHR, regardless of which way the verdict goes, although it's very unlikely that either will rule against the precedent set first by Chahal vs the UK, which established that those at risk of torture in their home state could not be deported, and recently reaffirmed by Saadi vs Italy, in which the UK intervened, he finds himself back in prison despite never being charged with any offence in this country. The government continues to claim that he poses a "significant threat to national security", yet he has no way of proving the opposite, with his appeal for Norman Kember to be released from the clutches of his abductors in Iraq, hardly the actions of a true takfiri, completely discarded. In the event that he finds a third country willing to take him, it seems unlikely that the government would actually let him leave. He seems destined to spend a few more years yet in a maximum security prison cell, at taxpayers' expense, when if the government could be bothered to attempt to build a criminal case against him, or heaven forfend, make intercept evidence admissible to increase the possibilities of doing just that, the whole mess of attempting to deport him could be brought to a close. The reality is that whilst we are not a police state, for some of those who reside in this country our government is determined to make it as much like one as possible. While everyone screams for justice for Green however, those trapped inside the control order system, not to mention Qatada, continue to suffer.

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