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UK government loses appeal in Afghan hijackers asylum case

[JURIST] The UK Court of Appeal [official website] on Friday upheld [text] a High Court decision [text] that nine Afghanistan nationals responsible for the February 6, 2000 Stansted Airport hijacking [BBC report] should have "discretionary leave" to stay in Britain until it is safe for the hijackers to return to Afghanistan. In a unanimous ruling [opinion text], Lord Justice Henry Brooke wrote that the justices must "apply the law as they find it, and not as they might wish it to be."

The lower court ruling by Mr. Justice Jeremy Sullivan was based on the controversial Human Rights Act [text], the 1998 English codification of the European Convention on Human Rights [PDF text], which prohibits the government from deporting criminals back to home countries that have a history of torturing criminals. UK Home Secretary John Reid appealed the ruling [JURIST report] in May, arguing that it should be overturned because the decision to allow the convicted hijackers to remain in the UK "appear[s] inexplicable or bizarre to the general public." Prime Minister Tony Blair derided the decision as an "abuse of common sense," and the controversy contributed to tension between the British government and judiciary [JURIST report] over human rights issues in the war on terror. Responding to Friday's decision to uphold asylum for the nine hijackers, Reid said he will press for new laws to effectively reverse the decision. Bloomberg has more. The Guardian has local coverage.

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