Powers to relocate terror suspects to other parts of the country must be revived following the disappearance of an Islamist extremist who escaped surveillance by dressing in a burka, the shadow home secretary has urged. Fugitive Mohammed Ahmed Mohamed, who was subject to a terrorism prevention and investigation measure (Tpim), was last seen fleeing a London mosque in women's clothing 10 days ago.
Yvette Cooper has written to Home Secretary Theresa May urging the minister to re-introduce powers previously available under the predecessor to Tpims, known as control orders, to forcibly move a suspect across the country. Mohamed was relocated to Ipswich, in Suffolk, when he was subject to a control order but returned to London when the restriction was lifted, while fellow Tpim subject and abscondee Ibrahim Magag, who vanished in a black cab on Boxing Day last year, had been forced to live in the West Country.
Cooper's letter has been published ahead of a Home Affairs Select Committee (Hasc) session with the independent reviewer of terror legislation David Anderson QC and Charles Farr, Director General of the Office for Security and Counter-Terrorism within the Home Office.
In her letter, the shadow home secretary said: "No terror suspect under a relocation order ever managed to abscond. Now two terror suspects who were previously relocated and then returned because of your decision have absconded. Your decision, against advice and warnings, to end relocations has made it much easier for two dangerous men to disappear."
Cooper asks the Home Secretary to agree to re-introduce the power to relocate terror suspects and pledges "cross party" support. She said: "We have urged you to do this repeatedly for the last three years. On a cross-party basis I would like to offer the Opposition's support for reintroducing the power of relocation into the Tpims legislation as a matter of urgency."
The shadow home secretary added: "I understand that you will be concerned about whether this will be a u-turn. However, this area of policy is too important to ignore the evidence as you have done for the last three years." It has been reported that ministers are reviewing Tpims and are considering whether to prohibit suspects from visiting mosques suspected of preaching hardline religious views.
It is also understood Tpims could be tweaked to allow suspects to be relocated to parts of their home cities away from where known associates live. Cooper said this was unlikely to have much impact. She said: "The power to relocate someone simply from Acton to Ealing is unlikely to have much impact if they need to be removed from contact with other terror suspect networks.
"And under your own legislation you do not even have the power to do that. The Home Office memorandum is clear that this cannot allow someone to be moved "away from their home area or area they wish to live"." Last week, it emerged Mohamed had been twice remanded in custody for allegedly breaching controls imposed on him.
The 27-year-old was granted bail in April after spending four months remanded in custody and was released despite facing 20 charges for breaking the restrictions of a terrorism prevention and investigation measure (Tpim) and an earlier control order. He was also remanded in custody in October 2011 before being released on bail in February 2012.
Mohamed was also trying to claim damages from the Government before he vanished over allegations that the British authorities consented to - or acquiesced in - his detention and torture by the Somaliland authorities.