Britain’s political prisoners

In August, in the wake of the July London bombings and as the Labour government cranked up the media hype for the current Terrorism Bill, it announced new guidelines, using existing legislation, for detaining and deporting people whose presence was deemed ‘not conducive to the public good’. Three sets of arrests followed: on 11 August, 15 September and 3 October. There are now 23 men held in high security prisons and Broadmoor ‘special hospital’ awaiting deportation to Jordan, Algeria, Libya and Iraq, the same countries Britain had previously accepted it was too dangerous for them to be returned to. A further four Algerians were bailed. Two other men remain subject to house arrest provisions brought in under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, which replaced those sections of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA) 2001 ruled unlawful by the House of Lords in December 2004.

Some of the detainees are being held in the re-opened Special Secure Unit at Full Sutton prison in York. This unit was built to house Irish political prisoners and ‘mothballed’ following the Good Friday Agreement. Others are in Long Lartin and Belmarsh high security prisons. All are Category A and all but one are totally isolated and denied association with any other prisoners.
Several of the 2001 ATCSA detainees ended up at Broadmoor, having been transferred there at various points during their incarceration at Belmarsh, when the combined effects of previous mental stress and torture with indefinite detention led them to states of mental breakdown.

The detainee known as B is now back there. He is a single man with no family who was released from Broadmoor in March on a control order with stringent conditions, including electronic tagging. He was unable to cope with sudden release to a place on his own, and had to be moved to an open psychiatric hospital ward. He remained there until rearrested in August. He was put back into prison where his mental state immediately deteriorated. It was only following an urgent bail application by his solicitors that he was moved out of prison, to Broadmoor psychiatric hospital.

G was the only ATCSA detainee to have been previously released on account of his mental state. He had been bailed in April 2004 to house arrest. Following his re-arrest, he made a serious suicide attempt and is now among the few detainees granted house arrest bail by the Special Immigration Advisory Committee (SIAC).

A third man who was in Broadmoor prior to his arrest on a control order is P, who is both mentally ill and severely physically disabled, having had both his arms amputated. He is currently detained in Long Lartin prison, having been refused bail, even under the stringent control order conditions previously imposed.

As well as the ex-ATCSA detainees, the recent raids re-imprisoned some of the men tried and acquitted for the non-existent ‘ricin conspiracy’. They are also now threatened with deportation.

In addition there are prisoners on remand under the Terrorism Act 2000. They include Waseem Mughal, Younis Tsouli and Tariq Al Daour, who were arrested in October and face a range of charges from conspiracy to murder and conspiracy to cause an explosion, to having a piece of paper with ‘Welcome to the Jihad’ written on it. The Terrorism Act remand prisoners include juveniles, who have been until now held in the segregation unit at Woodhill prison but are currently due to be transferred to a wing of the Closed Supervision Centre at that prison.

There are also a number of prisoners awaiting extradition to other countries. Babar Ahmed and Rachid Ramda have both just lost judicial attempts to prevent their extradition to the US and France respectively. Basque prisoner Iñigo Makazaga, who FRFI readers will be aware of following his successful fight against the prison authorities refusal to allow him our newspaper, has been detained in Belmarsh for five years, resisting his extradition to Spain.
Bernard Gardener

FRFI 188 December 2005 / January 2006

 

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