Sacked Muslim immigration officer sues Home Office

An immigration officer sacked over alleged links to Islamic terrorism has attacked the Home Office for not allowing him to defend himself against the unspecified allegations.

The Arabic interpreter, who helped Special Branch interview terror suspects, had his security clearance removed in 2005, a month after returning from a year-long sabbatical in his native Yemen.

He was suspended on full pay for five years then sacked after the Home Office deemed him a risk to national security.

The 44-year-old father of three claims it was only because of his race and the fact that he is a Muslim that he was suspected of associating with terrorists, and is suing the Home Office for discrimination and unfair dismissal.

His employment tribunal was covered by controversial “closed material procedures”, which allow cases to be heard almost entirely in private to stop sensitive intelligence being discussed in public.

In these proceedings, the former immigration official has not been made aware of the evidence against him as the Home Office argued it would risk national security. Known only as “Mr W”, he has not even been told of the name of the terrorist group or individuals he was alleged to have associated with.

Mr W was told his security clearance was withdrawn from his estimated £28,000-a-year post because he had been “identified as an associate of a network of suspected Islamist extremists who were assessed to be supporting the insurgency in Iraq”. The Home Office added even an innocent link puts Mr W in a “vulnerable position”.

Large parts of the legal hearing at the Central London Employment Tribunal have been held behind closed doors without Mr W, his legal team or the press and public allowed in court.

>Instead of his chosen lawyer, he is represented by an Attorney-General appointed special advocate, Stephen Cragg, who has clearance to see the secret material but forbidden from discussing the evidence with Mr W.

Due to the sensitivity of the material, the Home Office barristers did not ask Mr W anything under cross-examination and the department’s witnesses said four times during proceedings they could not answer questions put to them in open court.

Mr W joined the Home Office in 1999 – the same year he was granted British citizenship. His last role before his suspension was as an assistant immigration officer at Gatwick Airport, in which capacity he could routinely check classified information and occasionally top-secret data.

Mr W, who was sacked in 2010 after an external appeal found against him, said: “I was not told… of the identity or identities of the person with whom I am alleged to have associated. If I was told of such a person, I would have been able to explain such contact and prove my innocence, if indeed there was  such contact.

“Whilst in Yemen I met a number of people but I do not recall anyone who was fanatical or seemed of that type or who I thought was suspicious. None of my family in Yemen or the UK, immediate or extended, is remotely interested in politics or terrorism. I am certain of that.

“While going about my normal business, for example attending a mosque, I suppose I may be statistically more likely to come into contact, without knowing it, with a supporter of the insurgency in Iraq.

“I consider myself loyal to the UK and to the Home Office.”

Mr W told the tribunal last week that police had never interviewed him nor had security services asked him to assist any investigations.

The Home Office denies discriminating against Mr W’s race and religion and is contesting his claim of unfair dismissal.

The tribunal has concluded and reserved judgment until a later date.

Daily Mail, 27 August 2012