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Reid loses Afghan hijack ruling
4. August 2006, 04:49

BBC - Home Secretary John Reid has lost his Court of Appeal battle over the legal power to limit the rights of nine Afghan hijackers living in the UK.

Mr Reid appealed against a High Court ruling that gave the men discretionary leave to stay in the UK.

He argued he should be able to limit the men's ability to work and enjoy other freedoms.

They were convicted of hijacking a plane which landed in Stansted, Essex, in 2000, but were cleared on appeal.

Appeal dismissed

A lawyer for Mr Reid had argued at a hearing last week that, although the nine Afghans could not be deported because of human rights issues, immigration law allowed him to impose "temporary admission" status on them and curb freedoms.

But the Master of the Rolls, Sir Anthony Clarke, Lord Justice Brooke and Lord Justice Neuberger, announced their decision on Friday, dismissing the home secretary's appeal.

The Boeing 727 was hijacked on an internal flight in Afghanistan in February 2000.

The men were convicted in December 2001, but their convictions were quashed in 2003 by the Appeal Court which found they were acting under duress.

After Friday's ruling, Mr Reid said: "I am disappointed that the Court of Appeal has dismissed the Home Office's appeal.

"The court has ruled that it is not open to me to deny leave to enter the United Kingdom to the Afghan hijackers, or people like them, whose presence we regard as undesirable.

"I continue to believe that those whose actions have undermined any legitimate claim to asylum should not be granted leave to remain in the UK."

Mr Reid said he would strive to bring in law which would deny other people in a similar situation leave to remain in the UK.

"I plan to bring forward legislation to do this as part of the early Bill to strengthen our immigration laws which I announced as part of the outcome of my review into rebuilding confidence in our immigration system."

Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said the problem was of the government's "own creation."

He said: "These hijackers committed serious crimes which should make them incompatible with refugee status.

"They should have been deported in 2004 - especially since thousands of allied troops remain in Afghanistan maintaining the peace."

In a statement in May, the nine asylum seekers said they were desperate to be allowed to work and contribute to UK society.

They also apologised to passengers on the flight they hijacked, for the fear they had caused.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the decision not to return the men to Afghanistan is "an abuse of common sense".

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