UK terror suspects to walk free within a year

One of the suspects being released is believed to have been involved in the airline bomb plot that preceded sweeping restrictions at airports.
Six potentially dangerous terror suspects, including a would-be suicide bomber in the airline liquid-bomb plot, will be "free and unconstrained" from January, when special surveillance orders against them expire, the government's official terror laws watchdog has warned.

David Anderson QC said ministers needed to find an alternative to the system of terrorist prevention and investigation measures (Tpims), which replaced controversial control orders, before six out of the eight orders in force expire.

"Control orders could be extended year-on-year without limit," said Anderson. "The Tpims imposed at the start of 2012, by contrast, are likely finally to expire, after the single permitted extension, early in 2014."

He said some of the terror suspects who had been judged to be "potentially dangerous" by the home secretary and by the courts would then, in the absence of a prosecution or new evidence of terrorism-related activity, be "free and unconstrained".

The Home Office said there were eight Tpim notices in force. They can be imposed on those the home secretary believes have engaged in terrorism-related activity but whom it is not feasible either to prosecute or deport. They are believed to have participated in al-Qaida-related terrorist activity and nearly all are thought to be British citizens.

The Tpims conditions can involve an overnight curfew enforced by an electronic tag that tracks movements, restrictions on travel, movement, association, communication, finances, work and study, and a duty to report daily to the authorities.

The system replaced the more draconian control order regime, which included house-arrest-style curfews of up to 16 hours, as part of a coalition civil liberties pledge. But the two-year time limit was imposed to encourage the authorities to investigate all the possibilities to prosecute or deport the terror suspects involved.

Anderson says in his first annual report reviewing the operation of the regime that the two-year limit was the "boldest change" made by the government compared with control orders and it was "tempting, in the most serious cases, to wish for longer".

The terror watchdog says the six Tpim notices due to expire in January include three individuals against whom the allegations could be described as "at the highest end of seriousness, even by the standards of international terrorism".

Two other Tpim notices were allowed to expire in January. They include Ibrahim Magag, who absconded on Boxing Day after simply calling a taxi. The second involves a man who can only legally be identified as AY, who was acquitted in the airline bomb-plot trial, but is believed to have been its key co-ordinator. He is back in custody.

The six who could be freed include a man, AM, aged 24, who is said to have been a would-be suicide bomber in the airline liquid-bomb plot of 2006 but was never arrested or put on trial.

Another one is CD, 28, who attended a terrorist training camp in Cumbria in 2005, where his companions included four of the five attempted suicide bombers in the failed attacks on London on 21 July 2005. He has also been involved in training in Syria.

The third is CF, who despite an acquittal at a criminal trial is believed by the home secretary to have had "undoubtedly real and substantial" involvement in a UK network recruiting fighters in Britain overseas. He absconded while on bail during his criminal trial and undertook terrorist training in Somalia before fighting alongside al-Shabaab.

The official review of the government's counter-terrorism laws says the public allegations against the other three, though still serious, are not of the same order.

BF, 30, a former train driver, is alleged to have undergone terrorist training but has not taken part in funding, recruitment or attack planning. BM, 39, who is married with five children, was involved in terrorist-related activity in Pakistan and in Britain before 2007, and is likely to resume if not subject to a Tpim, the review warns.

The sixth terror suspect who could be freed is CE, 28, a British citizen of Iranian origin who has been trained in Somalia and was part of a British network providing extensive funds to Somalia for terrorist purposes.

Anderson says that even if control orders had continued in force, it is not realistic to suppose these men could have been kept under restraint indefinitely without proof of their guilt.

He also says it is no surprise they have proved ineffective as an investigation measure, given the awareness of the suspects that they were under scrutiny and that if they avoided any terrorism-related activity for two years, they were likely to be free of all constraints.

A Home Office spokeswoman said substantial extra resources were provided to the police and security service to increase the opportunities to prosecute for terrorist-related activity as part of the transition to Tpims. "We thank David Anderson for his report and will respond formally in due course," she added.



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