Page last updated at 15:29 GMT, Monday, 18 January 2010

Former control order suspects to sue British government

The Scales of Justice at the Old Bailey
Control orders: Judge says the men can sue

The High Court has ruled that two former terrorism suspects can sue the government for damages.

The two men, known as AE and AF, last year challenged control orders restricting their liberty.

Home Secretary Alan Johnson abandoned the orders against the men after being told he had to reveal more detail of the secret cases against them.

He said he was "very disappointed" at the decision to let the men sue and said the government would appeal.

AF is a joint UK-Libyan national who was born in Derby and now lives in north-west England and AE is an Iraqi Kurd imam. Both men have been accused of links to foreign jihadist organisations - an allegation they both denied.

They were both initially subjected to 18-hour curfews and other restrictions, including who they were allowed to contact.


Where's the evidence? It's all closed material, I can't defend myself, I'm in the dark, I'm in this nightmare

Controlee AE, speaking to the BBC, June 2009

But last year the Law Lords ruled that people who are made the subject of control orders should be allowed to see more of the case against them, in the interests of a fair hearing.

The government chose to revoke the orders, rather than reveal details of each case.

Lawyers for Mr Johnson then argued that neither man should be entitled to seek damages because the control orders had been revoked instead of declared unlawful by the courts.

However, on Monday, Mr Justice Silber formally quashed the control orders dating back to 2006 - paving the way for the men to sue - and ordered the home secretary to pay costs.

He said: "The reason why the control orders have been revoked has been the decision of the secretary of state not to disclose further material because he could not comply with the requirements [for a fair trial].

12-hour curfew, electronic tag
Limits on where he can go
Banned from meeting a list of named individuals
Banned from meeting other people without permission
Banned from using mobiles
Banned from leading prayers
Required to regularly report to monitoring authority

"Indeed, if the secretary of state had not revoked the control orders on the controlees, the position would in my view have been that the secretary of state would have refused to give disclosure to the controlees.

"Without that evidence, the secretary of state would have had no case for imposing or renewing control orders, which would then have been quashed."

However, the judge said the controlees would not automatically succeed - or necessarily be paid damages - if they did decide to sue.

Afterwards, Mr Johnson said: "I'm very disappointed by this judgment and will be appealing in the strongest possible terms."

He said the orders were designed to protect the public.

"We will resist strongly paying damages to former subjects of control orders wherever possible, and to minimise the level of compensation where we have no choice but to pay," he added.

Mohammed Ayub, of Chambers solicitors, Bradford, who was acting for AE, described the ruling as a landmark decision and a "very important step in AE's claim for damages".

"It is victory for common sense and decency," he said.

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