El Al ‘bomber’ Nezar Hindawi could go free

By James Brewster, August 16, 2012

A terrorist jailed for 45 years for trying to blow up an Israeli plane could be freed to live in the UK if he succeeds in a High Court challenge to his continued detention.

Nezar Hindawi was jailed at the Old Bailey in 1986 after he was convicted of attempting to blow up an Israel-bound El Al airliner, carrying almost 400 people.

Now in his 26th year behind bars, last Friday Hindawi won permission to mount a High Court challenge to what he says is the politically-motivated refusal to release him on parole.

Hindawi has already been given an order for his deportation to his native Jordan on release — but now, for the first time, he has argued that he should be freed onto the UK’s streets.

His barrister, Tim Owen QC, said he would rather be at liberty in Britain than not at all and, upon release, could mount an appeal against the deportation order.

This was the third time that Hindawi has challenged refusals to release him and Mr Justice Silber observed on Friday: “This is the continuation of a very long saga”.

Hindawi argues that he is “so notorious” that successive Home Secretaries have been unwilling to grasp the nettle and sanction his release.

He has been eligible for parole since 2001 and says there are “cynical, political” reasons why he is still behind bars.

The Parole Board rejected him in December last year, saying there was a “residual risk” that, on his return to Jordan, he would voice his “extreme” political views in such a way that others would be encouraged or incited to acts of terrorism.

The board said that, although the risk he posed could be “managed” in the UK, that could not be done in Jordan — and that prompted Mr Owen’s plea last Friday that the possibility of releasing him in Britain had not even been considered.

Mr Justice Silber said he was “troubled” by the case and opened the way for Hindawi to mount a full judicial review challenge to the Board’s refusal to free him. Recognising the urgency of the matter, he gave the case top priority in the waiting list for hearings.

Mr Owen earlier argued that Hindawi had expressed “remorse and self-blame” for his crime and there was no evidence that his “passionate”, non-violent, belief in the Palestinian cause made him a terrorism risk, either in Jordan or the UK.

The reasons the Board gave for refusing him his freedom made it “inconceivable” that he would be allowed out prior to 2016, when he will be entitled to automatic release, having served two-thirds of his sentence, the barrister said.

Hindawi was jailed after planting a bomb in his pregnant fiancée’s hand-luggage as she was about to board the Tel Aviv-bound plane at London’s Heathrow Airport.

The case resulted in the UK breaking off diplomatic relations with Syria.

Last updated: 2:52pm, August 16 2012