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Last Updated: Tuesday, 9 March, 2004, 17:53 GMT
Guantanamo Britons on home ground
Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul
Ruhal Ahmed and Shafiq Rasul are due back in the UK soon
Five Britons held in Guantanamo Bay as terrorism suspects for two years have arrived back in the UK.

A plane carrying the men and anti-terrorist police officers touched down at RAF Northolt in west London at around 1900 GMT.

From there it is expected they will be taken to Paddington Green police station for further questioning.

Their release from the Cuba camp was secured after the US concluded they presented a low risk.

The five returning men are Shafiq Rasul, 24, Asif Iqbal, 20, and Ruhal Ahmed, 21, all of Tipton, West Midlands, Jamal Al-Harith - also known as Jamal Udeen - 35, of Manchester, and Tarek Dergoul, 24, of east London.

Uniformed police officers, acting as an escort team on behalf of the government, and two independent observers, including one from the Muslim community, are also on the flight.

Shafiq Rasul

Medical teams are on hand to examine them and provide treatment if required.

Under the Terrorism Act, the men could be detained for up to nine hours while immigration staff or police verify their details.

Former Beirut hostage Terry Waite has condemned the US for breaching human rights in holding the men in Cuba without trial.

Speaking in the US, Home Secretary David Blunkett indicated four other UK detainees would probably face trial in the US as they had been picked up "in the combat zone" in Afghanistan.

The four remaining men are Feroz Abbasi, 23, Richard Belmar, 23, and Martin Mubanga, 29, all from London, plus Moazzam Begg, 36, from Birmingham.

Mr Blunkett said: "The evidence that has been picked up is best used in the US, not in Britain, because the people who evaluated that evidence, who heard that evidence, are of course those who were present and have been involved with the interrogation process."

'Kangaroo courts'

But he stressed the British government had made representations to the US about how they were dealt with.

Fair Trials Abroad said Mr Blunkett's speech signalled the end to British opposition to the "kangaroo courts" proposed by the US.

"The evidence given by officials can, of course, be given anywhere in the world," lawyer Stephen Jakobi said.

"The Guantanamo kangaroo procedures would give a far better chance of the innocent being convicted."

Families' wait

Solicitor Greg Powell, who is representing Ruhal Ahmed, confirmed his client, who he has never met, would be taken to Paddington Green police station in London for questioning.

Moazzam Begg is one of four Britons still detained by the US

Police might exercise their powers of arrest with some of the men, in which case they would be transferred to a high-security police station and could be held in custody for days.

Shanaz Ahmed, whose elder brother Ruhal is one of the Britons expected to return, said the family had not yet been contacted by officials.

"We will have to wait and see," she said.

The local MP for the three men from Tipton, Adrian Bailey, said police would be "quite justified" in detaining them for more questioning.

West Bromwich West member Adrian Bailey said there were "issues" to be addressed about why the three - Asif Iqbal, Shafiq Rasul and Ruhal Ahmed - were in Afghanistan three years ago.

"There are issues about how they got there, which we need to know in order to ensure that other young Muslim males do not follow that route," he told the BBC.

Jamal Udine's sister, Maxine Fiddler, spoke of her relief: "Are you happy or are you going to celebrate? No, no, I'm just relieved that he's actually out of Cuba."

The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"Anti-terrorist officers here want to know why they were in Afghanistan in the first place"


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