The injustice of the government’s process of secret hearings for the deportation of terrorist suspects should be obvious to everyone after a barrister revealed that MI5 had offered contradictory evidence against two men.
In the short term the scandal raises questions about possibly flawed secret intelligence in the cases of 16 other Algerian nationals who face deportation.
In the longer term this case shows the appalling results when rights are taken away, the state escapes accountability and liberties are crushed in the name of “fighting terrorism”.
The conflicting evidence in this case only came to light because Andrew Nicol QC, a special advocate in the Special Immigration Appeal Commission (Siac), was representing both men in separate hearings before the court, which meets behind closed doors.
High court judge Mr Justice Newman criticised the home office for putting forward the evidence in a ruling passed in May but only made public last week.
In a “closed judgment” made in the case of MK, a suspected Algerian extremist who was deported to France last month, Mr Justice Newman said the “administration of justice” had been put at risk.
MK was arrested in 2004 because of his association with Abu Doha, an Algerian militant charged in the US in connection with a plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport in 1999.
Among the allegations made against MK, based on intelligence gathered by the British security services, was that he let Abu Doha use his French passport to travel to Ireland and the Netherlands.
But during MK’s secret hearing on 19 May this year, the government withdrew the alleged passport violations. Officials had been shown evidence by Nicol, who represented Abu Doha in a separate hearing relating to his deportation to the US.
This evidence painted a totally different picture to the one presented in MK’s case.
In an addendum to the closed judgment for MK, Mr Justice Newman wrote, “Had the coincidence of Mr Nicol’s instruction in both cases not occurred, the commission would have been left to determine the question whether Abu Doha used the appellant’s passport, on a false basis.
“It is unnecessary to elaborate on the consequences which might have flowed had the special advocates not drawn the commission’s attention to the existence of these documents.”
MK, who was never charged with a crime, was deported to France on 14 September. He took the Eurostar to Paris after voluntarily deciding to leave the country. He has dual French-Algerian nationality and faces no criminal charges in France.
Sixteen other Algerian nationals face Siac hearings to determine whether they should be deported after Britain agreed a “memorandum of understanding” with the Algerian government that they would not be tortured or put to death.
The whole array of secrecy used in cases where innocent people may be returned to vicious regimes must be swept away.