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Last Updated: Friday, 12 May 2006, 16:47 GMT 17:47 UK
Afghan hijackers name ban lifted
Hijacked plane
The stand-off at Stansted lasted for four days
An order banning the naming of nine Afghan men allowed to stay in Britain after hijacking a plane and flying to London has been lifted by a judge.

The publishers of the Sun and the Daily Mail successfully applied to the High Court for the right to name them.

Earlier this week, the court ruled that the asylum seekers - jailed in 2001 for the hijack but now free - could remain in the UK until it was safe to return.

That decision provoked criticism and an appeal to reverse it by the government.

Prime Minister Tony Blair called the ruling on Wednesday an "abuse of common sense", and the following day the government said it would appeal against the decision to allow the hijackers to stay in Britain.

The practical consequences of there being further publicity identifying the claimants... may well be the effect of adding to or reviving notoriety
Mr Justice Sullivan

On Friday, Mr Justice Sullivan said the order banning publication of the nine names should be discharged because it could no longer be justified.

But he also said that further publicity identifying the men might add to their notoriety, and possibly prolong their stay in the UK, because it would remain unsafe to return them to Afghanistan in the near future.

The nine could not be named throughout the High Court case, after their lawyers asked for reporting restrictions.

But Mr Justice Sullivan ruled the order was no longer necessary to protect the men and their families, because their human rights were safeguarded by the decision not return them to Afghanistan until it was safe to do so.

He said the balance was now in favour of the right of the press and media to report the names.

"I simply observe that the practical consequences of there being further publicity identifying the claimants by name, or in any other way, may well be the effect of adding to or reviving the claimants' notoriety," he said.

He reminded the court that the reason for the original adjudication panel concluding, in 2004, that there would not be sufficient protection for the men in Afghanistan was their notoriety.

'Hijackers' charter'

The saga began in 2000 with a hostage drama at Stansted Airport which led to a four-day stand-off and asylum applications by 78 people on board.

The nine men were jailed at the Old Bailey in 2001 for hijacking the Ariana Boeing 727 on an internal flight in Afghanistan.

Appeal judges quashed the convictions in May 2003 but insisted that their decision was "not a charter for future hijackers". They said a mistake in directing the jury was the only reason the men's appeal had succeeded.

The question of what should happen to the nine and their families had caused a serious clash between the government and the judiciary over human rights law.

On Friday, Conservative Party leader David Cameron told the Sun newspaper the government had been "complacent" in failing to realise the Human Rights Act, introduced in 1998, was undermining the UK's ability to deal with foreign criminals.

He pledged to reform, replace or scrap the Act if elected.

Tory pledge on Human Rights Act
12 May 06 |  Politics
Government appeal over hijackers
11 May 06 |  Politics
Hijack convictions 'a mistake'
06 Jun 03 |  Politics

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