Terror suspects isolated and in limbo, says prisons inspector

originally by: Guardian/Society
published: 18th August 2011

The chief inspector of prisons has raised fresh concerns about a group of national security detainees who are being held in a special unit at Long Lartin high security jail in Worcestershire. Nick Hardwick says in a report published on Thursday that too little attention is being paid to the “uniquely isolated and uncertain position” of the detainees, who are being held in a “legal limbo” without being charged or facing trial.

Two of the men have been held for more than 11 years pending their deportation or extradition. There were seven men being held in the special detainees’ unit at the time of the inspector’s unannounced visit to Long Lartin in April.

The group include international terror suspects who are being held under immigration or extradition law. They are believed to include Omar Othman — better known as Abu Qatada — who has been accused of being one of Osama bin Laden’s chief associates in Europe.

The longest-detained British citizen is believed to be Babar Ahmad, who has been held for seven years while fighting his extradition to the US. Three others in the unit are also fighting extradition to America.

The chief inspector said that prison inspectors had previously raised concerns about holding this small group of detainees “who already inhabit a kind of legal limbo”, in a severely restricted environment for a potentially indefinite period.

“We were concerned to find that the detainees were no longer able to mix with the wider prison population,” said Hardwick. “These restrictions had apparently been made on security grounds, although the rationale appeared obscure as sentenced terrorists faced no such restriction in the main prison and not all detainees posed the same level of risk.”

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Long Lartin unit for terror suspects criticised
18th August 2011