Tuesday, February 27, 2007

THE INDELIBLE STAIN OF THE LONDON RICIN CASE (Continued): Sent home for torture and jail

In a story in today's Guardian, it is revealed two men held by the British government and later deported to Algeria will tried as terrorists in that country.

It connects to the ricin trial because one of the men, known as Reda Dandani, had been implicated by Mohammed Meguerba (Mahmoud Meguerba), the police informant for the case of the London ricin ring. As was written last week, when consulting with a colleague who was an expert witness for the London ricin trial in 2004-2005, it slowly came out that Meguerba had been tortured in Algeria.

The Guardian reports: "Reda Dendani, has been implicated by Mahmoud Meguerba, an intelligence source in the ricin trial, according to information received by Amnesty International. Meguerba, who was not called as a witness because he was considered unreliable, is reported to have been tortured by the DRS, the Algerian military security police."

Meguerba's evidence never made it into the London ricin trial and the prosecution case failed when the UK government could not prove any conspiracy connected to al Qaeda. In the case of "Bourgass et al," a jury found the co-defendants of the imprisoned Kamel Bourgass not guilty.

Many suspects were swept up and detained in what became known as Operation Springbourne, the anti-terror dragnet that preceded the London ricin case. When the trial ended, English authorities slapped control orders on the exonerated and began planning to deport them to Algeria.

The control orders were the equivalent of home imprisonment. In the meantime, the government began the process of trying to convince human rights observers that deportation back to Algeria, a country that tortures, would be all right.

In this it was unsuccessful.

Nevertheless, those subject to control orders, their lives ruined even though they had been found innocent, seemed to slowly go mad.

"[They] were detained indefinitely without trial under anti-terrorist legislation and later subjected to virtual house arrest under control orders," reported the Guardian. "In August 2005 they were imprisoned under immigration rules pending deportation."

"Their lawyer, Gareth Peirce [who was the organizing defense lawyer for the ricin trial,] said they could no longer bear the strain of indefinite detention and had withdrawn their appeals against deportation orders after assurances that they would not be prosecuted."

In Algeria this means little if anything and apparently those returned will be tried as terrorists.

The men were deemed a danger by British authorities, and in methods similar to those used to remove the rights of prisoners in American detention at Guantanamo, were said to be so through secret evidence which could not be examined or refuted.

The catalyzing events for this harsh treatment were the London bombings of 2005.

"Before the London Underground bombings in July 2005, the government accepted that Algeria's human rights record meant that sending suspects back there would breach the European convention on human rights, which bans inhuman or degrading treatment or torture," reports the Guardian.

"But in August 2005 the Home Office started moves to deport 15 Algerians deemed, on the basis of secret intelligence unusable as evidence in British courts, to be a danger to national security."

After the ricin trial, the defendants were retried in much of the English media where anti-terrorist expert and prosecution claims and opinions rejected by the jury were given a fresh airing. British lawmen rehashed the material from Mohammed Meguerba's confession, information which had not been allowed in the case.

The men released would have to be watched, it was claimed. At the time, there was one heartening development -- the alarm of the jurors who did not remain silent.

"We as a jury made a decision," they said. "To see the government disregarding our verdict and preparing to send [the cleared men] back to almost certain torture is horrifying. We would try to do anything to stop it." ("Freedom's Bright Lamp," The Guardian, May 21, 2005)

And they have continued to try as have others, without effect, through no fault of their own. It has become apparent fighting city hall is really tough in the so-called war on terror.

The Guardian piece is here.

24, torture, the ricin ring and reasons for war with Iraq is here.

National Security Notes at GlobalSecurity.Org on early repercussions from the ricin case in 2005 -- here and here.

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