Abu Hamza wants his passport back

UPDATED | I have been sent the Statement of Facts and Grounds for Judicial Review on behalf of Abu Hamza, dated 25 September 2012. These are open court documents and have been obtained directly from the Royal Courts of Justice.

Abu Hamza’s extradition has been put on hold whilst this Judicial Review claim is being dealt with this coming Tuesday [update – I understand that another issue is being dealt with on Tuesday, and that the passport point is not the one which has held up the extradition]. I think this may be a ‘permission hearing’ (the first hurdle a JR claim has to surmount) although it may well be a ‘rolled up’ hearing, which means the permission and substantive aspects will be dealt with all at once. A few points to note (nb. this is my quick summary, and is only of course of one side of the case – Abu Hamza’s):

This particular claim is very limited. He applied for and was granted a passport on 11 November 2011 and although this was sent on 20 November 2011 to Belmarsh Prison, where he was located, the passport has not yet been given to him. He has also requested photocopies, to no avail.

He claims that the failure to provide him with his passport or copies of it is contrary to Home Office Guidance Note 20, as well as potentially Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to private and family life) and the EU Citizen’s Directive 2004/38/EC. For what it’s worth, this is fundamentally a legality challenge under ordinary public law principles – the human rights aspect of it is likely to be in the background. So although it would technically be correct to say he is challenging this decision on human rights grounds, that aspect is only likely to play a small part in the claim.

Returning to the chronology, after the passport was received by the prison, there was an article in The Sun on 20 May 2012: Hamza gets new passport in jail stating that “BUNGLING officials have sent caged hate preacher Abu Hamza a NEW British passport.” Around a month later Abu Hamza was informed that the Identity and Passport service were seeking return of the passport from the Governor. Abu Hamza is alleging that “tabloid embarrassment” was behind this decision.

A letter before claim (part of the ‘pre-action protocol’ which all Judicial Review claimants are supposed to comply with) was sent on 25 July 2012 but no reply has been received.

Abu Hamza says that he needs his passport for legitimate purposes, namely satisfying US legal representatives that he is who he says he is (without wanting to be frivolous, I expect that may not be a problem without the passport…), and for his children’s travel and administrative purposes requiring them to establish their father’s identity. He is asking for his passport back when he is deported, and for a photocopy of the personal details page in the mean time.

The background to this claim is that Abu Hamza was successful in late-2010 in a challenge to the potential revocation of his British citizenship (see our post). The Special Immigration Appeals Commission ruled that Abu Hamza could not be stripped of his British citizenship since this would have the effect of making him stateless.

So, it would seem that he should be able to get a passport, being a British citizen, but as said above I have only seen his own submissions. The real story may be more complicated.

It has also been reported that Abu Hamza is challenging his extradition on grounds of his deteriorating mental health [update – that claim is probably also to be heard, at least for permission purposes, on Tuesday] . Given the length of time it has taken to extradite him, it is perfectly possible that his mental health situation has changed sufficiently to merit a further challenge.

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