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The Potters

The extraordinary artwork that you see here was created in the most difficult of circumstances: inside Belmarsh high security prison in south-east London between 2001 and 2005 by one of several individuals who were at the time interned without trial on secret evidence.

All the men are innocent of any involvement in “terrorism” yet have been subjected repeatedly to proceedings based on secret, closed “evidence” that denies them any real opportunity to defend themselves. This brings shame upon all of us and in particular upon this government and all those who support its policies in the claimed “war” against terror and its repeated attacks on the hard won civil liberties which protect us all.

These men, their wives and young children have been devastated by the arrests and re-arrests, the terror of what lies in store and the uncertainty as to if or when their ordeals will ever end. Many may never recover.

Internment

These men were interned from December 2001 to March 2005 under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001 without charge or trial and on the basis of mainly secret evidence.

Neither they nor their lawyers were allowed to see the evidence against them, so they were prevented from being able properly to defend themselves. The government accepted that the men could not be deported to their countries of origin because if they were they would be subjected to torture or other inhuman treatment. Internment caused inexorable and potentially permanent damage to the mental health of these men. Four of them had to be moved out of Belmarsh prison after suffering mental breakdowns directly caused by the uncertainty and hopelessness of the Kafka-esque, indefinite incarceration.

“Freedom”

In December 2004, in a resounding judgement, the House of Lords ruled that the men's indefinite detention was unlawful.

In March 2005, all of the men were finally released back to their homes but subjected to the harshly restrictive regime of the Control Orders.

Re-arrest

Then, on 11 August 2005, their lives were shattered once again. Ten of the men were re-arrested in violent dawn raids by armed police, and re-imprisoned in order to be deported to the very countries to which the British government had previously accepted that deportation was not possible - because of the risks of torture and other serious ill-treatment. Also re-detained are individuals who have been categorically and unanimously acquitted by the jury after the so-called “ricin” trial and others who have previously had charges dropped against them due to a lack of evidence.

Algerian hell

Two Algerian men who were returned to Algeria in January 2007 under new “arrangements” were held in incommunicado detention by the Algerian security services for twelve days and it has been reported that they heard or experienced first-hand torture in the secret location in which they were held.

Despite a statement made by a witness on behalf of the Home Secretary that he believed one of these men would not be prosecuted, both men are now being prosecuted in Algeria.

The two men have been imprisoned in conditions described by one of their Algerian lawyers as “hell”.

In the meantime, despite these horrors, the UK government is continuing to remove Algerian asylum seekers to Algeria and is still seeking to rely in “our” courts on the claimed assurances given by the Algerian government that the people will not be mistreated on their return. These are promises which since February 2007 seem to have been consistently broken.

Daniel Guedalla is with Birnberg Peirce & Partners Solicitors. For further information on how you can help, please contact: Adrienne Burrows, 020 8989 8153 a.burrows@alizarine.demon.co.uk

Topics: Prison | Human rights