Four terror suspects linked to “Jihadi John” have been granted hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal aid to sue the Government.
Four terrorism suspects linked to the British Isil executioner known as “Jihadi John” have been granted hundreds of thousands of pounds in legal aid to sue the Government, The Telegraph can reveal.
The men are all connected to a London terror cell whose most notorious member is Mohammed Emwazi, the real name of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) executioner accused of beheading dozens of hostages, including the Britons David Haines and Alan Henning.
Three of the suspects – Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, Ibrahim Magag and one who can be referred to only as CF – brought legal challenges against the counter-terrorism orders under which they were placed. The orders were designed to restrict their movements and activities because the secret intelligence services alleged that they represented a terrorist threat to Britain.
The security services say Magag, Mohamed and CF are part of a network of British Muslims accused of taking part in and funding terrorism in Syria and Somalia, where they have been linked to the group Al-Shabaab.
Despite being under a control order, Magag vanished after getting into a taxi near a London railway station on Boxing Day 2012. Mohamed fled the country in November 2013 after slipping out of a west London mosque disguised in a burka, while CF left last November, hiding in the back of a lorry at Dover.
The Telegraph can now reveal that Mohamed, Magag and CF were still able to claim legal aid to sue the Government because their cases against the restriction orders had been launched before they fled Britain.
We can also reveal that a fourth man, referred to for legal reasons as K2, was granted legal aid to sue the Home Secretary, Theresa May, over her decision to exclude him from the UK after he had travelled to Somalia in 2009.
The legal aid has been used to pay lawyers hired by the men to fight the control and exclusion orders, the latest examples of what critics say is a string of cases of the system being abused by terror suspects to challenge the decisions of the Government.
Although the final bills in each of the four cases are still being calculated, the cost to the taxpayer is expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Mohamed had been due to stand trial for allegedly breaching counter-terrorism restrictions over a period of almost 18 months and was facing a 20-year sentence if found guilty. He had been placed under the control orders after a court accepted evidence from the secret intelligence services that he was a linchpin in a British-based network for terrorism in the Horn of Africa.
Similarly, CF had been subject to a control order after the security services found evidence that he was part of a network of British Muslims accused of terrorism in Somalia and Syria.
By the time the men fled, their legal aid-funded cases against the Government had begun.
In May 2014, using the funding, British lawyers for Mohamed and CF won a court ruling against the Home Secretary to have their counter-terrorism orders quashed. Judges said they had considered striking out their case, but “reluctantly” allowed it to proceed because the pair had already been granted legal aid.
The men’s lawyers say it was unfair that, when the original instruction to put them under a control order was upheld four years ago, they were not fully told the reasons, as some of the explanation was given in secret.
The Court of Appeal unanimously ruled that the men should have at least been told the gist of the allegations against them and said their cases should be reconsidered.
Lord Justice Maurice Kay also said the judges had expressed doubts about allowing Mohamed’s case to proceed once he had left the country.
The judges said: “We did wonder whether his appeal should be stayed in these circumstances. However, we were told that, although the legal aid authorities had initially withdrawn his funding on being informed of the position by his legal representatives, an adjudication subsequently reinstated it.
“In these circumstances, and in view of the fact that CF’s appeal would be proceeding in any event, the [Home Secretary] decided not to invite us to stay or dismiss Mohamed’s appeal. With some reluctance, we allowed it to proceed.” The Government is appealing against the ruling in the Supreme Court, in an attempt to reverse what could be a dangerous precedent.
Mohamed and CF have also used legal aid to sue the Government for up to £1 million damages over what they claim is Britain’s role in their detention and alleged torture when they were arrested in Somalia and deported to the UK in 2011.
Magag, a London underground train driver, who fled Britain on Boxing Day 2012 by jumping in a cab at London’s Euston station, lost his legal aid funded appeal against his control order.
However his lawyer’s bill, which is still being processed by the Legal Aid Agency, is also expected to run into tens of thousands of pounds.
The fourth member of the network, referred to only as K2, has also been granted legal aid, despite leaving Britain in 2009 to go to Somalia.
He was awarded the funding to sue the Home Secretary, Theresa May, over her decision to exclude him from the UK because “his presence was not conducive to the public good”.
The reasons given were that he was “involved in terrorism-related activities and has links to a number of Islamist extremists”.
A court heard that “the Security Service assessment is that whilst based in Somalia the Appellant [K2], with his two associates, engaged in a variety of terrorism-related activities linked to Al Shabaab activities, including terrorism-related training and fighting against AMISOM [peacekeeping] forces.”
The revelation that the four suspects have been granted legal aid has angered those who say the system is being abused.
Sir Malcolm Rifkind, the former chairman of the Parliamentary intelligence and security committee, said: “Given the pressures on legal aid resources I would put these cases on the lowest rung of priority. If the rules currently permit awarding legal aid in such cases then they have to be reviewed as a matter of urgency.”
The MoJ confirmed that the Mohamed and CF cases were ongoing, but that legal funding had now been stopped. A spokesman said Magag’s final legal aid bill had not yet been received from his lawyers.
Referring to the cases of Mohamed and CF the spokesman said: “Legal aid was initially granted but has been stopped in this case. The case is ongoing and final bills have not yet been received.”
In the case of Magag the spokesman said: “Legal aid was granted. The case has concluded but final bills have not yet been received,” adding in regard to K2: “Legal aid was granted in this case. The case is ongoing and final bills have not yet been received.”
The MoJ spokesman added: “The Legal Aid Agency was bound by the decision of the independent adjudicator. As with all such cases, specialist teams manage costs to ensure they are carefully controlled.”
Last year it was revealed that Islamist terror suspect Tiger Hanif was awarded nearly £200,000 in legal aid to fight extradition to India, where he was wanted in connection with two bombings in 1993 which left an eight-year-old girl dead and dozens injured.
The extremist preacher Abut Qatada – once described by a judge as Osama bin Laden’s right hand man in Europe – received some £865,000 in legal aid to challenge attempts to deport him, before he was finally extradited to Jordan on terror charges in 2013.
Terror suspects legal aid Q&A
Why are the men suing the British government?
Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, Ibrahim Magag and ‘CF’ brought legal challenges against the Home Secretary’s decision to impose control orders on them, restricting where they travel, who they talk to and where they live and work.
A fourth man, known for legal reasons as K2, is suing the Home Secretary for barring him from returning to the UK. The security services claimed K2’s presence in Britain is “not conducive to the public good” and that he is involved in terrorism.
How are they doing it?
All four men have used legal aid funding to pay for lawyers to mount challenges in court against the Government’s decisions about their futures and their presence in Britain.
Their total legal bills have not yet been calculated by the Legal Aid Agency, but are expected to run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
Why has the Government allowed them to do it?
Like all terrorism suspects and individuals subject to control orders, the men were free the under the current system to apply for legal aid funding to pursue their cases against the Government.
They simply had to show that their case was eligible for legal aid, the problem they faced was serious and they could not afford to pay for their own legal costs.
What can the Government do?
There is nothing the Government can do about legal aid being paid in the current case, although the option is open to them to try and change the law governing the legal aid system.
In the meantime the Home Secretary is appealing to the Supreme Court against the Court of Appeal’s decision to quash the control orders on Mohammed and CF.
Are the men in line to receive compensation?
Despite having now fled Britain for Syria, Mohammed and CF have also used legal aid funding to sue the British government for damages, claiming that it had a role in their detention and alleged torture in Somalia before they were deported back to the UK in 2011.
If the courts rule in their favour they stand to receive substantial compensation packages. The Government is also contesting the two men’s claim for compensation.
K2, who left Britain for Somalia in 2009, could in theory sue for compensation if he wins his case against the Home Secretary’s decision to exclude him from the UK.