Skip to comments.Phone Tap Ban Prevented Hamza Trial In Britain
Posted on 05/28/2004 6:06:11 PM PDT by blam
Phone tap ban prevented Hamza trial in Britain
By Philip Johnston, Home Affairs Editor
Home Office dithering over a decision on whether to permit the use of phone tap evidence in court emerged yesterday as a key reason why Abu Hamza could not be tried in Britain.
Although the Government has said for years that it was "reviewing" the prohibition on intercept evidence and was "minded" to lift the ban, it has yet to produce firm proposals.
Hamza is in Belmarsh jail
David Blunkett, the Home Secretary, conceded yesterday that evidence in American hands allegedly linking the extremist Muslim cleric to the kidnap and murder of hostages in Yemen would not have been admissible in British courts because it was obtained from intercepting satellite phone calls.
Mr Blunkett again said the policy in Britain was "under review" but he did not anticipate a report until the autumn. "I have indicated I am being moved on this issue. My views have changed and I think there is room for limited use of such evidence," he said. "Had substantial evidence existed that was admissible we would have been able to take action."
His political opponents said Mr Blunkett should have acted sooner. Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said: "I hope he does that quickly because then we can look at not just the impact that allowing [phone tap evidence] would have had in this case, but the other cases of individuals currently being held."
Nine terrorist suspects are in custody awaiting extradition from Britain to a variety of countries, including America, France and Itlay. Some have been held for several years.
There have been many calls in recent years for phone tap evidence to be used in the trials of terrorists and organised gang bosses, as it is in America and other countries. Just a few months ago, a committee of Privy Counsellors proposed that the prohibition should be lifted as a matter of urgency in terrorist cases.
Ministers claim the move is opposed by MI5 because it would compromise their surveillance techniques. But it now appears that Hamza, 46 - who is in Belmarsh high-security jail awaiting extradition on 11 terrorist-related offences - could have been charged in Britain had phone tap evidence been allowed.
The most serious charge against Hamza is that he acted as an intermediary with a terrorist group which took 16 tourists hostage in the Yemen, six years ago. Three British tourists and one Australian were killed when they were used as human shields during a shoot-out with Yemen rescuers.
As a British subject allegedly involved in a crime that took place in Yemen in which British hostages were killed, Britain rather than America would have seemed the obvious venue for Hamza's trial.
Two American citizens were also kidnapped by the Yemeni gang said to have links to Hamza. Washington is now claiming jurisdiction over this offence on the basis of the evidence it now possesses.
However, as John Ashcroft, the US attorney-general, said on Thursday, this is a capital crime that carries the death penalty, something that could prove a barrier to Hamza's extradition on human rights grounds.
Hamza was arrested in 1999 after both the Yemeni kidnapping and a bomb plot in Aden for which his son was later jailed. Police detained him on suspicion of "the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism". However he was later released without charge.
Mr Blunkett defended the failure to bring Hamza to book. "Had we evidence in this country of a crime here, then of course the police and the Attorney-General would have taken action," he told the BBC.
Guess it depends on the meaning of the word "crime". Looks like many more innocents are going to be killed before the "west" gets it. Bush gets it.
Europe will fall because it is helpless in the face of the evil Armies of Islam. If they don't change course soon, they will be overrun like the victims in the film "28 Days Later", which reminds me greatly of the scourge that is Islam.
Meanwhile "Capt. Hook" here can spew violent overthrow and hate rhetoric, not to mention being up to his ears with Al-Qaeda and nobody seems to know what to do about him...
Puzzles me too.