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This UK terror trial could have been held entirely in secret

The two men are accused of terrorism charges – and their names have finally be released. The verdicts will now be held in open court.

Image: Gavel via Shutterstock

BRITAIN’S COURT OF Appeal has blocked an unprecedented attempt to hold a major terror trial entirely in secret, ruling that limited elements of the proceedings must be made public.

The core of the case against two men accused of terrorism offences will still be held behind closed doors, but the charges, part of the judge’s introductory remarks, some of the prosecution remarks and the verdicts will be heard in open court.

Appeal by the media

The decision was made following an appeal by media organisations against a lower court’s ruling last month that the entirety of the proceedings should be private.

Prosecutors had argued that disclosures from the trial – which is due to begin on Monday — could jeopardise national security, in what would have been the first ever secret criminal trial in Britain.

In a written decision, three Court of Appeal judges said the case was “exceptional”.

They accepted that there was a “significant risk” to the administration of justice in an open trial, as prosecutors might be deterred from proceeding with the case because of the sensitive nature of the evidence.

The judges said that “the core of the trial must be ‘in camera’ (behind closed doors)”.

But they added:

No departure from the principle of open justice must be greater than necessary.

As well as deciding that some parts of the trial must be public, the judges overturned a ruling that the defendants could not be named.

Men now identified

Previously known only as AB and CD, the men can now be identified as Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar.

“We express grave concern as to the cumulative effects of (1) holding a criminal trial in camera and (2) anonymising the defendants,” the judges said.

We find it difficult to conceive of a situation where both departures from open justice will be justified. Suffice to say, we are not persuaded of any such justification in the present case.

Only basic details of the charges have so far been made public.

Incedal is charged with an offence relating to the preparation of terrorist acts.

He and Rarmoul-Bouhadjar are both charged with an offence contrary to anti-terror laws relating to the collection of information.

Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is also charged with an offence relating to the possession of false identity documents.

- © AFP, 2014

Read: Abu Hamza found guilty of kidnapping and terrorism offences>

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