Nine law lords will today be asked to decide one of the most important issues to come before the House of Lords, Britain's highest court: can the state lawfully detain a criminal suspect indefinitely without charge or trial?

Only once before in recent times have the law lords sat in a panel of nine, a measure of the importance of a case whose outcome is likely to make headlines around the world.
The appeal is being brought by foreign terrorist suspects detained without trial under the Anti-Terrorism Crime and Security Act 2001, passed shortly after the September 11 attacks in the US. This allows the indefinite detention of foreign suspects - but not British citizens, who remain entitled to all the safeguards of the criminal process.

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