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28 February 2002 Edition

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Former prisoner refused compensation

Former republican prisoner Nick Mullen has been refused compensation in the High Court in London for the ten years he spent in custody. Mullen was released three years ago after it was proven that he had been illegally deported from Zimbabwe at the request of MI6. The Court of Appeal ruled that there had been a "blatant and extremely serious failure to adhere to the rule of law" by those responsible for bringing him to court.

But in the High Court last week, Lord Justice Simon Brown said Mullen's "conviction had been secured at too high a price, but by no means does it follow that the claimant should also be financially compensated for the loss of his liberty". The judge, upholding a decision by Home Secretary David Blunkett to refuse him compensation, said Mullen was "not entitled to be treated for all the world as if he was entirely innocent".

Cambridge-born Mullen went to Zimbabwe in December 1988, only hours before British police found arms and explosives at a flat he had allegedly rented in Battersea, south-west London. MI6 contacted Zimbabwean intelligence during the following month, asking for "Mullen to be seized in Zimbabwe (with timing stage-managed shortly before a direct flight to London) and deported to the UK in short order". An MI6 officer in Harare recorded that his objective was to "lean on" the deputy director general of Zimbabwe's Central Intelligence Organisation "as hard as I deemed prudent in order to achieve the right decision over Mullen".

Mullen was arrested by Zimbabwean officials, denied access to lawyers, put on a plane for London and detained on arrival. The circumstances of his arrest and transportation were kept from Mullen until 1998, eight years after he had been convicted of conspiracy to cause explosions and sentenced to 30 years' imprisonment. He successfully appealed on the ground that he had been brought to trial unlawfully.

Quashing his conviction in 1999, the Court of Appeal said: "The British authorities initiated and subsequently assisted in and procured the deportation of the defendant by unlawful means, in circumstances in which there were specific extradition facilities between this country and Zimbabwe.

"In so acting, they were not only encouraging unlawful conduct in Zimbabwe but were also acting in breach of public international law."

Asked to comment on the ruling denying him compensation, Nick Mullen told reporters: "You wouldn't be able to print what I wish to say."

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