Page last updated at 16:42 GMT, Tuesday, 18 May 2010 17:42 UK

'Al-Qaeda ringleader' wins appeal against deportation

Abid Naseer
MI5 alleged Abid Naseer wrote coded e-mails to an al-Qaeda member

The alleged leader of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb targets in north-west England has won his appeal against deportation.

A special immigration court said Abid Naseer was an al-Qaeda operative - but could not be deported because he faced torture or death back home in Pakistan.

Mr Naseer, 23, was one of 10 Pakistani men arrested last April as part of a massive counter-terrorism operation in Liverpool and Manchester.

Student Ahmad Faraz Khan, also 23, won his appeal on similar grounds.

The security services believed the men were planning to attack within days of their arrest, but neither was charged.

'Security risk'

The Human Rights Act prevents people from being sent back to places where they would be "subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment".

The coalition government announced on Tuesday that it would be creating a Human Rights Commission to review the legislation and consider if changes were needed.

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said she would not be appealing against the ruling, handed down by the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (Siac).

The men's lawyer Gareth Peirce says the ruling was 'not acceptable'

She said: "We are disappointed that the court has ruled that Abid Naseer and Ahmad Faraz Khan should not be deported to Pakistan, which we were seeking on national security grounds.

"As the court agreed, they are a security risk to the UK. We are now taking all possible measures to ensure they do not engage in terrorist activity."

Altogether five men - who had been tracked by MI5 before the raids last year - were appealing against deportation.

Much of the detail in the case was presented to Siac - a court which deals with such cases - in secret during the past three weeks.

Lawyer Gareth Peirce, who represented Mr Nazeer and Mr Khan said the ruling was the "worst of all possible worlds" because her clients were flagged up as being involved in terrorism based on evidence "one is not told".

She said: "It's no way to conduct justice. If people have committed a crime, put them on trial."

Dominic Casciani
By Dominic Casciani, BBC home affairs correspondent
This judgement shines a public light on the difference between intelligence assessments and hard evidence - with the tribunal concluding that MI5 was on the right side of the line.

Its conclusions will be regarded by security and police chiefs as a vindication of their assessment that there was a plot, even though detectives never found a bomb and the men were never charged with an offence.

Abid Naseer and Ahmad Faraz Khan will be added to the list of other suspects in similar situations - men who are unwanted by the UK but, simultaneously, cannot be deported because they could be tortured.

The home secretary's answer for some suspects is to place them under a control order, a form of house arrest that restricts their movements.

Both men may fight on. The new government, meanwhile, has had a taste of the realities of counter-terrorism judgement calls - and the legal duty of courts to protect suspects from harm.

The ruling effectively means that MI5's case against the two men has been supported by the courts even though neither of them was ever charged with a criminal offence.

But Abdul Wahab Khan, 27, and Tariq Ur Rehman, 38, who were also arrested at the time, lost their deportation appeals.

They had already returned to Pakistan.

Mr Justice Mitting said they were committed Islamists who knew of Mr Naseer's plan.

But student Shoaib Khan, however, won his appeal, with the court saying there was no evidence of wrongdoing against him.

His lawyer Amjad Malik told the BBC that his 31-year-old client, who is also currently in Pakistan, wanted to return to the UK to resume his studies.

In his judgement, the judge said Mr Naseer was sending e-mails to a contact in Pakistan - and that the recipient was an "al-Qaeda operative".

The e-mails were said to be at the heart of the plot and culminated in a message sent to Pakistan in April 2009 in which Mr Naseer said he had set a date to marry, something MI5 said was code for an attack date.

"We are satisfied that Naseer was an al-Qaeda operative who posed and still poses a serious threat to the national security of the United Kingdom," the judgement said.

It added: "Subject to the issue of safety on return, it is conducive to the public good that he should be deported."

The judge said Ahmad Faraz Khan had become a "knowing party" to the plan because he had "undergone a radical change in view" between leaving home and studying in the UK.

But in both cases, Mr Justice Mitting said it was impossible to return the men to Pakistan.

"There is a long and well-documented history of disappearances, illegal detention and of the torture and ill-treatment of those detained, usually to produce information, a confession or compliance," said the judgement.


Abid Naseer: In prison under immigration powers
Faraz Khan: Bailed to a secret location, movements restricted
Tariq ur Rehman: Voluntarily returned to Pakistan
Abdul Wahab Khan: Voluntarily returned to Pakistan
Shoaib Khan (cleared): Voluntarily returned to Pakistan but wants to resume studies in UK

The government's independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, the Liberal Democrat peer Lord Carlile, said: "We do not want people who have been held to be terrorists walking our streets. We therefore have to start looking for a different way of dealing with individual cases."

He said he hoped the government would look at ways of ensuring people would be treated properly if they were returned to their native countries.

BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg said Cabinet Office Minister Francis Maude had suggested the coalition government would, for now, retain the Human Rights Act.

This is despite a promise in the Conservative manifesto to replace it with "a British Bill of Rights".

The BBC's home affairs editor Mark Easton said the it was likely that a control order would be used to restrict the movement and activities of the two men and to keep them under constant watch, although ministers would be unable to confirm this.

Imminent attack

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said terror suspects needed a fair trial while those convicted "should be sent to secure prisons, not put on planes to face torture or make more trouble elsewhere."

The controversial affair began last April when the Metropolitan Police's then head of counter-terrorism, Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, inadvertently revealed details of the investigation.

Mr Quick resigned after he was photographed carrying clearly visible secret documents outside 10 Downing Street.

Police brought their operation forward and raided a series of locations across Liverpool, Manchester and Lancashire, eventually detaining 11 men.


CCTV shows police breaking down the door of a property in Manchester

Ten of them were from Pakistan, who were all either close friends or loosely known to each other.

Mr Quick told the BBC that at the time officials feared an imminent attack.

But no explosives were found and all of the men were released without charge after two weeks.

They were immediately detained again under immigration laws after the then home secretary sought their deportation, saying they were still a threat to national security.

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