UK appeals court allows partial secrecy in terrorism trial

[JURIST] The criminal division of the UK Court of Appeal [official website] on Thursday declared [order, PDF] that some coverage of the trial of two terrorism suspects from London will be held in open court, but core aspects of the trial will remain confidential. The case is Guardian News and Media Ltd v AB CD [materials] and it is on appeal from a May 19 judgment which determined the trial would be held In camera, or entirely in private. The lower court ruling gained approval [Independent report] from Britain's Home Secretary and Foreign Secretary, but it drew significant criticism from lawyers in the country and the media. As a result of Thursday's ruling, the court ruled there will not be a risk to the administration of justice if the following elements of the trial are heard in open court: the naming of the defendants, swearing of the jury, reading of the charges to the jury, reading of the verdicts, and portions of the judge's and the prosecution's introductory remarks. However, there will be no reporting [BBC report] of the "core of the trial." Media outlets in the UK such as The Guardian criticized the trial as a dangerous step towards secret justice [Guardian report]. As one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, The Guardian argued [Guardian op-ed] security must not overcome transparency so easily, and the news service continues to cover [Guardian report] the trial proceedings with great detail.

Tensions between an open judicial process and the demands of national security have created challenges in the UK in the fight against terrorism. In April the UK Court of Appeal denied permission [JURIST report] to the Home Secretary to appeal a decision not to deport a radical Islamist cleric to Jordan. In February British police counter-terrorism forces announced the arrest of Moazzam Begg [Guardian profile] in his hometown of Birmingham, England, along with three other individuals on suspicion of terrorism offenses related to the war in Syria [JURIST backgrounder]. Begg was a detainee at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder], and he was one of the last detainees from the UK to be returned. British authorities have expressed concern [NYT report] about their citizens fighting in jihadist groups in Syria, and Begg is the most high profile arrestee in connection with the UK's attempt to minimize influence in the Syrian conflict. In December 2013, the UN Special Rapporteur on counterterrorism Ben Emmerson [official profile] announced [JURIST report] plans to launch an investigation [Guardian op-ed] into the surveillance activities of the US National Security Agency (NSA) and the UK Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) [official websites].

 

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