A pair of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists who allegedly plotted to bomb a packed shopping centre cannot be deported to Pakistan because it would breach their human rights, a tribunal ruled.
Abid Naseer and Ahmad Faraz Khan won the right to stay in Britain even though the court accepted they were planning an “imminent” attack in Manchester when they were arrested last year.
A judge said he was “satisfied” that ringleader Naseer, in particular, “still poses a serious threat to the national security of the United Kingdom” but his hands were tied by human rights law because the two men might be tortured if they were sent home.
It means taxpayers will pick up a bill running into millions of pounds to keep the two men under control orders, even though the court stressed that deporting them would be “conducive to the public good”.
The head of the country’s largest police organisation expressed “deep unease” at the situation, which revived debate on the European Convention on Human Rights, on which the men based their appeal against deportation.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, said she was “disappointed” with the decision, but there was confusion last night about whether the coalition Government would repeal the relevant human rights laws. Francis Maude, the Paymaster General, initially said the Government had “no plans” to do so, but later ministers announced a commission to study the creation of a UK Bill of Rights which would give British courts supremacy over European legislation.
Andy Hayman, Scotland Yard’s former head of anti-terrorism, said: “Our counter-terrorism legislation has been knocked into a cocked hat and we haven’t got the measures that people need in this country to keep them safe.”
Naseer, 24, and Khan, 26, were among 12 suspects arrested in Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire last April following an intensive surveillance operation led by MI5.
The raids had to be urgently brought forward after the then Assistant Commissioner of Scotland Yard, Bob Quick, was photographed with details visible under his arm. Mr Quick subsequently resigned.
The men were never charged but the Home Office attempted to deport Naseer and Khan on national security grounds after eight other suspects chose to return to Pakistan.
Yesterday the Special Immigration and Appeals Commission (Siac) upheld appeals by Naseer and Khan against the attempt to deport them.
The commission panel, headed by Mr Justice Mitting, a High Court judge, said it was “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 panel was convinced that Naseer had sent “sinister” coded emails to an al-Qaeda contact which detailed his intention to carry out a “mass-casualty attack”. Naseer’s claim that he was writing about girlfriends was “utterly implausible”, they said.
Nevertheless, Siac said Pakistan had a “long and well-documented history of disappearances, illegal detention and torture” and its authorities had not given any assurances “against prohibited ill-treatment of any of the appellants”.
The panel said deporting them would breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which outlaws torture.
Paul McKeever, chairman of the Police Federation, which represents rank and file officers, said: “There is a deep sense of unease both within the police service and elsewhere that people are being allowed to stay in this country who are considered a very high risk. It is something the new Home Secretary has to address