UK

Banned activist Sheikh Raed Salah wins in detention case

Sheikh Raed Salah
Image caption Sheikh Raed Salah challenged Theresa May's decision to detain him

A pro-Palestinian activist detained during a visit to the UK on the orders of Home Secretary Theresa May has won a partial victory in a claim for damages.

The High Court ruled Sheikh Raed Salah had been wrongly detained for two days, during which he was not told the reason for his arrest.

But it said the rest of his detention had not broken the rules.

The Home Office said the court had backed Mrs May's use of her powers and Mr Salah won only on a technical point.

Ministers are expected to fight any claim for compensation.

Critics say Sheikh Salah, an Israeli citizen, is anti-Semitic, a charge he has denied. The campaigner for Israeli-Arab rights has been mayor of his home town three times.

Mr Salah arrived in the UK in June, planning to attend a number of public events and other meetings with pro-Palestinian campaigners. One of the meetings was at the Houses of Parliament.

But three days later immigration officers detained him at his hotel in London. They handcuffed him and he was eventually taken to a police station, before being held in immigration detention for 21 days. He later won an application to be released on bail.

Mr Justice Nicol said in his judgement that although the Home Office had not broken the rules over its reasons for the activist's detention, the detention had been conducted incorrectly.

He said: "I have rejected the claimant's case that his detention was unlawful because it conflicted with the statutory purpose or the Secretary of State's policy on detention.

"I have accepted his argument that he was not given proper and sufficient reasons for his arrest on June 28 nor was he given them until some time on June 30. He is entitled to damages for wrongful detention during that period."

Mr Justice Nicol said the arrest only became lawful once Mr Salah had received the full reasons for it, through a proper translation by his solicitors, on 30 June.

There has been no agreement yet on the damages and Mr Salah is still expected to appeal against the decision to deport him.

Hotel mix-up

The court had heard when Mr Salah arrived in the UK, he was given permission to stay for six months - and as an Israeli citizen he did not need a visa.

But two days before he arrived, Mrs May ordered his exclusion on the grounds that his presence was not conducive to the public good. The exclusion order had not been served on him before he boarded his flight to the UK.

When Mr Salah was later arrested at his hotel, he could not understand what was going on and his interpreter was barred from assisting the conversation.

At one stage, one of the arresting officers tried to use an Arabic translation application on his iPhone, although the reasons for the arrest remained unclear.

"In my judgement, what took place at the hotel was inadequate for the claimant's arrest to be lawful," said the judge.

"The claimant was entitled to know, at least in the broadest terms, why he was being arrested. Even in English, that information was not conveyed to him. That alone meant the arrest was unlawful."

A spokesman for the Home Office said: "We are pleased that the court has found that the home secretary used her powers correctly when detaining Mr Salah.

"The decision the Home Secretary took was the right one. The court decided that there was a technical problem when he was initially detained."

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