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October 12, 2001
0041 IST

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House of Lords rules deporting Muslim cleric to Pak

H S Rao in London

In a major blow to Pak-sponsored militancy in Kashmir, the House of Lords on Thursday ruled that a Muslim cleric, Shafiq Ur Rehman, who sponsored and supported terrorism in Kashmir, be deported to Pakistan.

Delivering the verdict, Law Lord Hoffman said his judgement had been written three months before the US attacks.

"They are a reminder that in matters of national security, the cost of failure can be high. This seems to me to underline the need for the judicial arm of government to respect the decisions of ministers of the Crown on the question of whether support for terrorist activities in a foreign country constitutes a threat to national security."

The Special Immigration Appeals Commission, which first heard his case, said he was not a threat to British national security and overturned the home secretary's decision.

But in their ruling the Law Lords said the commission had adopted too narrow a definition of what national security involved.

The decision is also a victory for the then home secretary Jack Straw who ordered in 1997 that Rehman, who was working as an Imam in one of Oldham's mosques, be deported on the grounds that he was a threat to national security.

The decision by the highest court of the land will have wider implications for immigration laws, as the British Government in the wake of the Sept 11 terrorist attacks in the US, aims to crack down on those who allegedly back terrorist activity.

Security service investigators said Rehman had raised funds for the Lashkar-e Tayiba group, which is indulging in militancy in Kashmir, while working in Britain for its political wing, MDI.

Meanwhile, Rehman's lawyer Amjad Malik said he was now considering an appeal to the European court.

Thirty-year old Rehman had denied allegations of recruiting British Muslims for terrorist training, and raising money to fund a 'holy war' in Kashmir.

Malik said, rather than prosecute suspected terrorists under the Terrorism Act, the government believed it was 'easier' to simply deport them.

"National security will therefore, be used, as a tool to be rid of people whom the government thinks is unsafe. It means that people in Britain cannot raise their concerns about their brothers in Kashmir, Palestine or Chechnya as that will be considered as participating in activities not considered safe by the Secretary of State. People will not be able to exercise their freedom of expression," he said.

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