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Judges Reject Terror Suspects’ Appeals

October 29, 2003

LONDON (AP) _ British judges rejected the appeals Wednesday of 10 suspected international terrorists who were detained without trial under emergency powers.

The only two who were identified were Jamal Ajouaou, a 40-year-old Moroccan accused of links to the man suspected of plotting to blow up Los Angeles International Airport, and Palestinian asylum seeker Mahmoud Abu Rideh, accused of ties to associates of Osama bin Laden. The eight others have never been named publicly.

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission rejected the appeals in two groups of five. The court said all the detainees whose cases were judged Wednesday could lodge another appeal, within 28 days. It was not immediately clear if their next step was the Court of Appeal or the Law Lords _ the highest appeal court.

The 10, some of whom have been detained in high-security jails since December 2001, were interned under emergency anti-terrorism legislation brought into force two months after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

The provision applies to terror suspects who are not British citizens and whose lives would be endangered if they were deported to another country. Sixteen people have been detained under the law. Six more appeals remain to be heard.

Under the law, the suspects can leave at any time for their home countries or for third countries willing to accept them. Ajouaou left for Morocco days after he was ordered detained in December 2001. Another unidentified suspect has taken the option of leaving.

The government has accused Ajouaou of procuring equipment for terrorist organizations and having links to Amar Makhlulif, also known as Abu Doha, wanted by U.S. officials in connection with the Los Angeles plot.

After the first five judgments were announced, Home Secretary David Blunkett said he was ``very, very pleased″ with the judges’ decision.

``The process we followed ... we believe was proportionate and sensitive to the real challenge of managing to defend civil rights whilst defending us against terrorists,″ he told Sky News TV.

Under the legislation, lawyers for Blunkett have only to prove that the government has ``reasonable grounds to suspect″ the detainees have links with terrorism _ a far lower requirement than the standard of proof that would be required to convict them in a criminal court.

Lawyers for the suspected terrorists claim the evidence against them is ``fragmentary and incomplete.″

Critics say the law is an abuse of human rights. A group of about 25 protesters gathered on the steps of the court building in central London before the verdicts were handed down.

When the law was passed, the government opted out of Article 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees the right to liberty and prohibits detention without trial. Under Article 15 of the convention, governments are allowed to opt out of Article 5 in times of war or other public emergency.

Blunkett defended the government’s use of emergency powers.

``We’re not just picking people out of the blue, we’re actually dealing with people whose life, whose commitment, whose connection and work with terrorist networks across the world has put us at risk,″ he told Sky News.

Blunkett claimed in Abu Rideh’s appeal in June that the suspect was ``closely involved with senior extremists and associates of Osama bin Laden both in the U.K. and overseas.″

Abu Rideh also was accused of raising money for international terror groups and procuring false documents. The suspect, who has lived in Britain since 1995, denied the charges, saying he was involved in charitable work for Islamic agencies.

Ajouaou has also been linked to Yasser el-Sirri, an Egyptian activist, who is suspected of plotting to murder the Afghanistan northern alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massood.

British prosecutors say el-Sirri’s London-based Muslim group sponsored phony journalist credentials for the two men who detonated a bomb hidden in their camera while they interviewed Massood in northern Afghanistan.

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