Un-named British authorities and the right-wing press woke up and got themselves in a right old tizzy this morning over the news that two terrorism suspects, believed to have links to Al-Qaeda, will be allowed to remain - almost certainly under house arrest and subject to control orders - in the UK as they would face torture if deported to Pakistan.
23-year-olds Abid Naseer and Ahmed Faraz Khan are accused of plotting to cause a "mass casualty 7/7-style bomb attack" to have taken place in Manchester last year, probably at the Arndale Shopping Centre during Easter. Police carried out raids at short notice on the pair after the ironically-named Met Head of Terrorism Bob Quick accidentally blurted details of the operation to photographers for which he later lost his job - the haste with which they were carried out led to police failing to gather sufficient evidence and the men being released without charge two weeks later. To date, they have not been charged with any offence and no bomb-making equipment was discovered, but police obtained copies of e-mails believed to contain coded plans outlining the attack.
Part of Manchester's enormous Arndale Centre, the largest city centre shopping mall in Europe. A terrorist attack at Easter, when the centre would be crammed with shoppers, would be likely to cause an enormous number of injuries and deaths.
Speaking to the Daily Express, Taxpayers' Alliance chief executive Matthew Elliot said, “These men are a security risk to the UK that is ultimately going to cost hundreds of thousands of pounds. British taxpayers cannot be expected to keep bankrolling restrictions on these men on the basis that they might be a threat. They should be charged and put on trial if they really were plotting a bomb attack." The newspaper also says that the cost of keeping each man subject to a controlling order will be "around £225,000 per subject."
New Home Secretary Theresa May told the paper "As the court agreed, they are a security risk. We are now taking all possible measures to ensure they do not engage in terrorist activity," adding that the Government is "disappointed."
Meanwhile, barrister Jeremy Donne QC said: "Control orders are costly and they have been criticised by the European Court of Human Rights." This is indeed the case - the use of control orders, which prevent a subject from associating with other people, using communications and effectively keep them under house arrest, are highly controversial, not least of all when applied to people who have not been convicted of any crime - though it should be understood that there is little doubt among authorities that the two men are guilty, although no bomb making equipment was found. However, the orders are a very great deal less controversial - and have received far less criticism by the Court of Human Rights - than torture, which has no place in a civilised nation. If Britain is a civilised nation, we have a duty to prevent anyone becoming a victim of torture - and preserving our right to refer to ourselves as civilised is worth a lot more than the £450,000 it'll cost to keep tabs on Naseer and Khan.
The European Convention on Human Rights, Article 3, states: "No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." That's an admirable and lofty ideal - let's stick to it, even if it may mean we need to protect those we wish to punish from people who do not share our enlightened ways.