Detention without trial, house arrest and a very strange release (updated 11 Feb 05)
The home secretary proposes to swap his powers to imprison foreigners indefinitely and without trial if he suspects them of involvement in terrorism, for new powers to put anyone, including British citizens, under house arrest and to impose all sorts of other restrictions on their liberties, the greatest expansion of the power of the state over its citizens in peacetime for centuries.
An Egyptian detainee who had been in prison without trial for over three years on suspicion of terrorism was suddenly released unconditionally on 31 January 2005, with virtually no explanation. Read my Guardian article of 8 February here, and a fuller analysis here (3 February) of the background to this strange development and its possible implications, including the text (oddly hard to find on the Web) of the home secretary’s statement on the release and key extracts from the previous judgments of the Special Immigration Commission upholding the original decisions to imprison him and keep him locked up.
What does this mean for the home secretary’s house arrest proposals? Already they are running into serious difficulty. On 28 January 2005 the Guardian published an earlier article of mine setting out the reasons for rejecting these draconian proposals (click here to read it) and The Times published a letter from me expressing similar outrage (click here to read it).
Both the article and the letter on my website include links to all the main documents and other websites mentioned. It looks increasingly as if the government is beginning to realise that the Clarke house arrest proposals are unsustainable as they stand. If you agree, please write to or e-mail your MP urging him/her to insist, when the government’s (probably revised) proposals are eventually put to parliament, that only the courts, not the home secretary or any other politician, should have the power if necessary to deprive anyone of their liberty, following a trial by a judge and jury to establish beyond a reasonable doubt that there are adequate grounds for doing so. Nothing less will do.