Author: By Nigel Morris, Deputy political editor
Mahmoud Abu Rideh, who says he has never been shown any of the evidence against him, was yesterday offered a “certificate of travel” by the Home Office which will enable him to move abroad.
His wife, Dina al-Jnidi, and their six children moved to Jordan in May to live with her parents. Writing in The Independent yesterday, she described how the family had been torn apart by her husband’s treatment. His lawyers took his case to the High Court, accusing the Home Office of “irrationally” refusing to issue him with travel documents because of his alleged terrorist connections.
Mr Abu Rideh, who came to the UK as a Palestinian refugee, was among 17 men detained without charge shortly after the 11 September attacks in 2001. He spent four years in prison, and then four more subject to a control order.
Under the terms of this order, he has had to stay inside his home for 12 hours a day, and phone a monitoring company three times a day. Any visitors must be approved by the Home Office, and he is not allowed to have an internet connection. Last year he went on hunger strike in protest.
His lawyers say he has been driven to despair and repeated suicide attempts by the restrictions on his freedom and wants to leave the country. Mr Abu Rideh has said: “I am alone. I don’t have friends. Everyone is scared to see me.”
After a morning of legal discussion between the two sides yesterday, the court heard that the Home Office was now offering him a certificate of travel. The judge ordered that his legal challenge should be stayed while he considers whether to accept the offer.
Last night, Amnesty International UK, which has led the campaign over his treatment, welcomed the Government’s concession. Sarah Macneice, its counter-terrorism campaigner, said: “Mahmoud Abu Rideh will now be able to leave the UK and seek entry to a safe country, and will no longer be subjected to the repressive measures of his Control Order, which have driven him to utter desperation.
She added: “The Home Office should issue this document to him promptly, rather than subjecting him to yet more delays.”
Gareth Peirce, Mr Abu Rideh’s solicitor, said the document is likely to be issued within two weeks at most.
In 2001, the then Home Secretary David Blunkett described him as “an active supporter of various international terrorist groups, including those with links to Osama bin Laden’s networks”; but Mr Abu Rideh has never been tried in court.
After Belmarsh top security prison, he was transferred for a while to Broadmoor secure psychiatric hospital because of his fragile mental health.
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