Convicted terror leader with link to Paris whom we cannot deport
Al-Qaeda fundraiser from Leicester connected to seiges in France, uses Human Rights Act to stay in Britain
A convicted al-Qaeda terror fundraiser with links to the Paris attacks is residing in the UK after using the Human Rights Act to prevent his deportation back to his native Algeria, The Telegraph can disclose.
Baghdad Meziane, who was jailed for 11 years in 2003 for running a terror support network, has successfully staved off Home Office attempts to deport him – despite the Government’s repeated insistence that he constitutes "a danger to the community of the United Kingdom".
Meziane was a close associate of Djamel Beghal, a convicted terrorist who mentored two of the Paris attackers while they were in jail together. The pair lived close to each other in Leicester and Meziane, 49, once supplied Beghal with a false passport allowing him to travel to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan.
The Home Office has attempted to remove Meziane, a father of two children born in the UK, for almost six years following his release from jail in 2009.
However, it has been thwarted by Meziane’s claim that his deportation would breach his human right to a family life and that he might face torture if sent home.
There is now a growing row over whether Britain’s security and intelligence agencies have sufficient powers to tackle the terrorist threat.
In a rare intervention, Lord Evans of Weardale, the former head of MI5, today warns that Britain’s anti-terror laws are "no longer fit for purpose", as it is becoming easier for jihadists plotting attacks to evade the intelligence services and the police.
Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, he says it is now "much harder" than a decade ago for the security services to find out "what terrorists or criminals are saying among themselves" because they are discussing plots on the internet. Lord Evans says new laws are vital to give intelligence agencies an "accountable and proportionate" ability to monitor more effectively services including Facebook, WhatsApp and Snapchat.
Parliament’s secret intelligence watchdog said plans for a sweeping overhaul of the laws underpinning the operations of MI5, MI6 and GCHQ would be announced within weeks.
The blueprint, to be published by the Intelligence and Security Committee, will set out "very radical" reforms to the law to help security services keep pace with the
"tremendous changes in technology" that are allowing terrorists to evade detection online.
Lord Jonathan Evans of Weardale, former Director General of the Security Service M15 (MARK WAUGH/AFP)
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the committee’s chairman, told The Sunday Telegraph that intelligence agencies should be given updated powers to access suspects’ mobile phone records, emails and internet messages, when authorised by a senior Cabinet minister.
"The biggest threat has to be a potential terrorist attack," he said, adding: "You simply cannot say that some comparable target in London, Rome, Berlin or Madrid will not be attempted." The developments will widen the Coalition split between David Cameron and Nick Clegg over the need for new laws to fight terrorism.
Mr Cameron, in a US television interview on CBS’s Face the Nation, branded Islamist terrorism a "poisonous death cult" and admitted the West faced a "huge struggle" with a group of people who were "challenging our way of life".
Britain was put on heightened alert following the attacks in Paris and an armed police raid in Belgium last week in which two terrorists were killed.
Security is being stepped up across Britain for police officers, who have been warned they may be targeted by terrorist gunmen, and in Jewish areas, where patrols have been increased at schools and synagogues.
Chief constables are considering issuing more officers with Tazer stun guns after the threat level against the police was raised to severe, the highest ever.
The disclosure that Meziane, a convicted terror fundraiser, has managed to stay in the UK prompted furious condemnation last night.
A Home Office spokesman confirmed Meziane remained in the country but would give no further details. The spokesman said the Home Office would not comment on individual cases. A Home Office source insisted: "We are in the process of removing Meziane."
Last night, Chris Grayling, the Justice Secretary, said the case highlighted the need to scrap the Human Rights Act.
Mr Grayling said: "It’s a nonsense that people who are a threat to our society are able to use their human rights to avoid being sent back to their home country when it is clear they have no regard for the human rights of our citizens. That’s why it’s time to scrap Labour’s Human Rights Act, and put in place a completely new approach to human rights laws which means that this kind of thing can be stopped. Only the Conservatives would do that."
Prof Anthony Glees, director of the Centre for Security and Intelligence Studies at Buckingham University, said: "It is extraordinary that this person should be in the UK and a serious threat to our national security given what we know about the way the Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo were organised.
"The proper definition of human rights legislation is the right to be free from terrorists and the right to go about our normal business without fear of being attacked. It is simply unacceptable that this is being done in the name of the European Convention on Human Rights."
Meziane had close links to Beghal, who converted Amedy Coulibaly, the killer of four hostages in a kosher supermarket as well as a police woman, to radical Islamism while in jail. He also heavily influenced Chérif Kouachi, one of the two brothers who slaughtered Charlie Hebdo staff.
Beghal had initially been imprisoned in France over a plot to blow up the US embassy in Paris that was foiled after he was arrested at Dubai airport in September 2001. Under questioning – he claims he was tortured – he confessed to the plot, leading to the arrest of Meziane and another Algerian living in Leicester, Brahim Benmerzouga.
Both Meziane and Benmerzouga were jailed in the UK for 11 years in 2003 for funding terrorism and possession of false passports. They were released into probation hostels and Benmerzouga was subsequently deported to Algeria a year later but Meziane has so far successfully fought off attempts to remove him. The case will have cost the British taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds in court costs to date, while it is not clear if Meziane has received legal aid.
A Home Office spokesman said the Government would continue to press for the deportation of terror suspects. The spokesman said last night: "Deportation with assurances enables us to remove people from the UK, in line with our existing international obligations, even when there are substantial grounds to believe they face a real risk of treatment contravening their human rights in their home country.
"We have already removed nine individuals under our Deportation With Assurances agreement with Algeria. However, we do not routinely comment on individual cases."
Writing in today’s Sunday Telegraph, Lord Evans says: "The ability of the police and security agencies to do this important work of protecting our society and its vulnerable people is under threat from changing technology... They can only do this if they have the tools to do so and the tools at their disposal are no longer fit for purpose."
It emerged yesterday that Saïd Kouachi, one of the brothers who massacred journalists at Charlie Hebdo, had been secretly buried in a grave in the eastern city of Reims on Friday night – after dark and under tight police security.
French police are investigating whether there may have been a "fourth shooter" involved in the attacks and who may be one of 12 suspects in custody.
The Kouachi brothers, along with Coulibaly, were killed in the 72-hour rampage, but DNA found on a gun used in the kosher supermarket attack by Coulibaly, and in the shooting of a jogger two days earlier, belongs to none of the trio.
The French government deployed 10,000 troops around the country last week in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, which left 17 people dead.
The fears for security in the UK were further fuelled by an admission by Europol, the European Union’s law enforcement agency, that a terrorist strike in Britain , similar to the Paris attack, could not be ruled out.
Rob Wainwright, director of Europol, said: "Stopping everything is very difficult, containing the threat fully is very difficult."
Europol estimates that as many as 5,000 people have travelled from Europe to Iraq and Syria and may have been radicalised.
Security measures are being increased elsewhere in Europe. Hundreds of troops were being deployed across Belgium to patrol the streets after security forces broke up a suspected Islamist terrorist cell they believed was planning to kill police officers.
Up to 300 soldiers will be deployed in the capital, Brussels, and the northern city of Anvers, which has a large Jewish population.
Seven churches in Niger were yesterday torched by Islamists protesting at the publication of the souvenir edition of Charlie Hebdo, amid growing protests from Muslims around the world.
On Thursday, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, will fly to London for a major summit of the international coalition against Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
Government sources have disclosed that training courses run by British military experts are expected to begin by the end of March to equip moderate Syrian opposition forces to defeat Isil.
The Ministry of Defence is also drawing up plans to deepen Britain’s involvement in the fight against Boko Haram Islamists in Nigeria, with up to 70 more military training specialists expected to be sent for 10 weeks to prepare the Nigerian armed forces for battle.