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UK: Another Terrorism Act case is thrown out of court (1)
01 March 2004
"Were this prosecution to continue, it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute amongst right-thinking people and offend the court's sense of propriety and justice" - Judge Richard Haworth
Six human rights activists, charged under the UK's draconian Terrorism Act, had the case against them thrown out of court on 1 March 2004. The three men and three women were prosecuted for being members of the Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Cephesi (DHKC, Revolutionary People's Liberation Front) which, it was alleged, was a proscribed organisation that was raising funds to finance terrorism in Turkey. UK citizen's Gurkan Gurr and Rory O'Driscoll and four Turkish citizens, Allaatin Kalender, Songul Ozgur, Selver Kapan and Birten Kalayci, had the charges against them dismissed after it was revealed that their organisation had not only not been proscribed, but that the Home Office had assured them that their activities were perfectly legal. Last December nine Algerians, prosecuted under the Act for planning to carry out a bomb attack on Hogmaney celebrations in Edinburgh, had all of the charges against them dropped when the Crown Office announced that it would be taking no action against them. They had been detained for two years, (see Statewatch bulletin Vol 13, no 6).
The six DHKC members had been subjected to intense Special Branch surveillance before being arrested in dawn raids in December 2002. The DHKC had been actively involved in raising awareness of the Turkish government's appalling human rights record and in organising support for a prisoner's hunger-strike protesting at the abuse of prisoners. It is estimated that there may be as many as 10,000 political prisoners in Turkey. Their work was publicised through the distribution of a magazine, which is even legal in Turkey, and through participating in demonstrations, protests and similar activities.
Following the proscription of the Devrimci Halk Kurtulus Partisi Cephesi (DHKP-C) under the Terrorism Act 2000 (Proscribed Organisations) (Amendemnt) Order 2001
the defendants contacted the Home Office to check on their legal position and were assured in a letter that the organisation they were working with had not been banned. Although this letter was revealed to the court before the trial began, the prosecution went ahead with its lawyers arguing that activities carried out by the DHKC were done on behalf of the DHKP-C. The defence successfully argued that the prosecution was an abuse of process as the defendants had been told that the DHKC was not banned. Judge Richard Haworth agreed that the Home Office's letter amounted to a commitment that, providing the defendants did not break the law, their work for the DHKC was not criminal.
Another factor in the case was that a few days before the trial began the defence discovered that that consent of the Attorney General for a prosecution had not been given. The Attorney General's consent is required when there is an international element to a prosecution under the Terrorism Act. Nor had the authority of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) been sought.
In dismissing the case Judge Richard Haworth is quoted in the Guardian newspaper as commenting:
"Were this prosecution to continue, it would bring the administration of justice into disrepute amongst right-thinking people and offend the court's sense of propriety and justice" (Guardian 2.3.04).
Statewatch report, 3.3.04