Page last updated at 11:10 GMT, Thursday, 17 June 2010 12:10 UK

Legal framework behind Alsamamara case

There are two highly restrictive legal orders available to the government to keep tabs on terrorist suspects.

Control orders were introduced after the House of Lords ruled in 2004 that detention in prison without trial breached the European Convention on Human Rights. They form part of the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005.

They are applied to British citizens suspected of being a threat to national security on the basis of intelligence material which would not be admissible in court, or impossible to introduce into court for fear of revealing sources and methods.

Secret evidence can be used in control order hearings but the Law Lords ruled in 2009 that the gist of this must be revealed.

Immigration bail orders apply to foreign nationals awaiting deportation on grounds of national security. These fall under the Immigration Act 1971.

In 2001 the Special Immigration Appeals Commission took on extra responsibilities to cover appeals against deportation on grounds of national security and again secret evidence is allowed.

Currently there is no requirement for even the gist of this secret evidence to be disclosed to the subject who is usually placed under effective house arrest

These kinds of special measures in cases of national security have their origins in the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2001 which was passed just three months after 9/11.

Back then the government passed legislation - partly on the basis that the terrorist threat from al-Qaeda amounted to a national emergency - that enabled them to detain suspects without trial using secret intelligence evidence which was not disclosed.

Politically this is fraught. Labour introduced the legislation to combat the terrorist threat. In opposition the Liberal Democrats called control orders "inhumane", and the Conservatives wanted reform. But in government, it is a tougher call.

The BBC understands that two terror suspects connected to Operation Pathway, who until two weeks ago were in prison, have just been released on similar restrictive court orders which critics say amounts to house arrest.

Q&A: Control orders
01 Feb 10 |  UK

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