Terror Trial Should Be Held Mostly in Private, U.K. Court Says

A trial of two men on terrorism charges will be held mostly in private, a U.K. appeals court said today after the media challenged an order that the entire case be heard behind closed doors.

Judge Peter Gross said the case was “exceptional” and there was a serious risk to the trial, scheduled to start next week, if all of it was public. While the “core” of the trial must be private, the swearing in of the jury, the charges, part of the judge’s and prosecutors’ opening comments, and the verdicts and sentencing should be held in public, he said.

He also ruled the two defendants could be identified for the first time. Erol Incedal is charged with preparation of terrorist acts and possession of false identity documents, while Mounir Rarmoul-Bouhadjar is charged with collection of information under the terrorism act, and possession of false identity documents.

The case raised questions about the need to protect national security, while also respecting the tradition that legal proceedings should be open and freely reported. The British government supported the trial being entirely in secret. Gross said the appeal judges had “grave concerns” about the effect of holding trials in private while at the same time giving anonymity to the defendants.

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