More importantly, the SIAC judges ruled that no further action in respect of the men’s cases was to be taken until next week at the earliest, and scheduled a full hearing for next Thursday morning.
However, when the two men who attended the hearing — U and VV — were driven away from the court, expecting to return home, as ordered by the SIAC judges, they were, instead, delivered to Belmarsh prison, where they were joined by the other three men, who had been seized in raids on their homes. This was clearly planned by the Home Secretary in advance, even though she had informed neither the men’s lawyers nor the SIAC judges. The first the lawyers heard about it was when one of the men’s wives rang, inquiring why he had not yet returned home.
SIAC is meeting again today, and the whole situation threatens to turn into a colossal headache for the government. The men’s lawyers will argue that the government was in contempt of court, and it is expected that Mr. Justice Mitting, the chief judge, will not be happy to hear that the government behaved as though SIAC’s decisions were irrelevant, and, moreover, that the Home Secretary then acted in a manner that would have pleased King John, in those days before England’s nobles forced him to sign the Magna Carta in 1215, establishing for the first time that the king had no right to imprison his subjects “except upon the lawful judgment of his peers or the law of the land.”
Today, we seem to be experiencing a new version of the divine right of kings: the self-declared right of an elected government official to ignore her own judges, and to cast foreign “terror suspects” into the modern day version of the Tower of London — Belmarsh prison — with no regard for the laws established over the last 794 years.
UPDATE at 1 pm: In a humiliating defeat for the government, the SIAC judges have just ruled that all of the men — except U — are to be released from Belmarsh and allowed to return home under previously agreed conditions. The humiliation of Jacqui Smith will hopefully soon be announced in greater detail.
UPDATE at 3 pm: I’ve just heard from observers that the judges’ decision to order four of the five men to be sent home was chosen as an alternative to the lawyers’ recommended course of action: nailing Jacqui Smith for contempt of court and kidnap.
SIAC will now be meeting next Wednesday (March 4) to discuss the European Court of Human Rights’ objections to the British government’s use of Special Advocates in closed court sessions, and the rules preventing the Special Advocates from reporting any information whatsoever to either the accused or their lawyers.
A hearing to review U’s bail conditions is scheduled for March 5, and another hearing, examining the government’s request to revoke all the men’s existing bail conditions and to imprison them in Belmarsh by legal means is scheduled for March 11.
Please come along if you can. Hearings start at 9.30 am. SIAC is located at Field House, 15 Bream’s Buildings, London EC4A 1DZ. A map is here:
advocates in "terrorism"-related cases.
Wednesday 4 March: 1-2pm
No to Secret Evidence in UK Courts! Demonstration outside SIAC
Off Fetters Lane
(nearest tube: Chancery Lane)