A British court decided that two Libyan terrorist suspects cannot be deported to their homeland even though they pose a danger to Britain's national security. The government plans to appeal the decision.
The Special Immigration Appeals Commission said the two men, identified only as DD and AS, faced the risk of ill-treatment if they were sent home.
"There is also real risk that the trial of the appellants would amount to a complete denial of a fair trial," said the commission's chairman, judge Duncan Ouseley.
The ruling is a blow to a diplomatic agreement struck between London and Tripoli in a bid to make the deportation of terrorist suspects easier.
In the wake of the July 7, 2005, London bombings that killed 52 commuters, Britain signed "memoranda of understanding" with several countries, including Libya, guaranteeing that suspects returned there would not be mistreated.
As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain is not allowed to deport people to countries where they may be mistreated.
The government said it would ask the Court of Appeal to overturn Friday's ruling.
"We believe that the assurances given to us by the Libyans do provide effective safeguards for the proper treatment of individuals being returned and do ensure that their rights will be respected," a Home Office spokesman said on the government's customary condition of anonymity.
The commission accepted that the men posed a security risk to Britain but said they should be granted bail under strict conditions.
Ouseley's ruling said DD was a "real and direct threat" to national security and a "global jihadist with links to the Taliban and al-Qaida."
The government claims DD is brother-in-law of Serhane Fakhet, who blew himself up in a raid by Spanish police after the March 2004 Madrid train bombings. It says another brother-in-law, Mustapha Maymouni, is serving 18 years in a Moroccan prison for his part in the Casablanca bombings which killed 45 people in May 2003.
When detained in October 2005, DD possessed a map marked with the flight path to Birmingham International Airport in central England.
"The markings might have been for reconnaissance purposes but might have a wholly innocent explanation," the court's ruling said.
The second man, AS, was "an Islamic extremist who has engaged actively and as a senior member with a terrorist group clearly engaged in support work for jihadist activities," the ruling said.
It said he was involved with a Milan-based group, monitored by Italian authorities, that planning a terrorist attack, likely within Europe. He came to Britain in February 2002 and was arrested that May for immigration offenses.
The immigration commission struck down a similar challenge to the government's deportation policy in February, when judges ruled that radical cleric Abu Qatada could be sent back to Jordan.
Qatada, a London-based preacher described by a Spanish judge as Osama bin Laden's "spiritual ambassador in Europe," has been accused by the British government of raising funds for extremist groups and offering "spiritual advice and religious legitimacy" to militants planning attacks.