UK: Secret Terror Trial Will be Held Partially in Public

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The Court of Appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice (c) Graham Turner/The Guardian

Following the decision of the Court of Appeal delivered today, the secret terror trial of defendants AB and CD will be held in public.

The order was initially made by Mr Justice Nicol to grant the defendants anonymity and to exclude the public from the entirety of the trial. The Crown Prosecution Service had requested the unprecedented closed proceedings on the grounds that the case involved national security considerations.

In today’s ruling, the Court of Appeal lifted the anonymity order and identified the defendants as Erol Incedal (AB) and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar (CD). Both defendants are charged with possession of bomb making instructions; Incedal is further charged with preparing acts of terrorism, Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is further charged with an offence under the Identity Documents Act.

The Court also ordered that parts of the trial could be heard in public, including the swearing in of the jury, reading of the charges to the jury, and parts of the judge’s introductory remarks and of the Prosecution opening speech. In addition, a few accredited journalists will be entitled to hear the entirety of the proceedings, with the exception of a few very sensitive parts.

Lord Justice Gross expressed “concern” at the effect that holding the trial entirely in camera and granting the defendants anonymity would have on the fundamental principle of open justice. He did, however, state that the case was an “exceptional” one:

” We are persuaded on the evidence before us that there is a significant risk – at the very least a serious possibility – that the administration of justice would be frustrated were the trial to be conducted in open court … In our judgment, as a matter of necessity, the core of the trial must be heard in camera.”

The trial is set to commence on 16 June at the Old Bailey.

Terrorism Trial to be Held Entirely in Private in the UK

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The Court of Appeal in the Royal Courts of Justice (c) Graham Turner/The Guardian

A terrorism trial against two defendants, known only as AB and CD, is set to commence in London on 16 June. The trial looks to be the first in modern legal history to be held entirely in private with the identity of the defendants withheld and both the media and the public excluded from the entirety of the proceedings.

This extraordinary turn of events follows an application by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS). Mari Reid, unit head of the counter-terrorism team in the special crime and counter-terrorism division of the CPS, gave evidence that there was a “serious possibility that the trial may not be able to go ahead” if it had to be held in public.

The order for the proceedings to be held in private was granted by Mr Justice Nicol on 19 May 2014. It is presently being appealed by the media to the Court of Appeal who heard submissions on the issue this Wednesday. Richard Whittam QC, senior Treasury counsel, argued that the exceptional nature of the case against the defendants merited the exclusion of the public from the proceedings.

The Court of Appeal was told that AB and CD are charged with serious terrorism offences, including possession of a document entitled “Bombmaking”. The evidence that the Crown are relying on could not be heard in public.

Lord Justice Gross stated that he will give the court’s decision on the appeal in a few days with a full judgement to follow

shortly thereafter.