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British Court Blocks All-Secret Trial For Terrorism Suspects

The statue of Justice atop the Old Bailey courthouse in London.

We told you last week about an upcoming trial in Britain that's so secret that little is known about the case – except that it involves terrorism.

At issue are two men identified simply as AB and CD. AB is accused of "engaging in conduct in preparation for terrorist acts." CD is accused of improperly obtaining a British passport. And, the Daily Mail reported at the time, both are accused of possessing terrorist documents. Prosecutors said that they would have to abandon the trial if it cannot be held in total secrecy — the first time in British history that such a trial would have been conducted.

As you might expect, civil liberties groups and the media were irate about those conditions — and several news organizations challenged the secrecy surrounding the case. Well, today they have some respite: Britain's Court of Appeal ruled that the core of the trial can be heard partly in secret, but parts must be held in public.

The court also ruled that the defendants can be identified by their names — Erol Incedal and Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar.

The judges on the Court of Appeal said the part of the trial involving the swearing-in of the jury, the prosecution's introductory remarks, the verdicts and the possible sentencing would be open to the public. And, they said, a limited number of journalists could be allowed to attend the trial's closed portions if they agreed to keep the proceedings confidential until the end.

Here's more from the BBC about the two men and the charges against them:

"Mr Incedal and Mr Rarmoul-Bouhadjar were arrested in October 2013 in circumstances that were widely reported at the time. Mr Incedal is charged with preparing for acts of terrorism contrary to the Terrorism Act 2006 and a further allegation of collecting information useful to terrorism.

"Mr Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is charged with collecting information useful to terrorism and possession of false identity documents."

A spokesman for the attorney general told the BBC the Crown Prosecution Service would abide by the decision.

The trial begins next Monday.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Krishnadev Calamur is NPR's deputy Washington editor. In this role, he helps oversee planning of the Washington desk's news coverage. He also edits NPR's Supreme Court coverage. Previously, Calamur was an editor and staff writer at The Atlantic. This is his second stint at NPR, having previously worked on NPR's website from 2008-15. Calamur received an M.A. in journalism from the University of Missouri.