Rangzieb Ahmed, from Rochdale, Greater Manchester, was jailed for life in 2008 as the result of an investigation into a network of Islamists stretching from Manchester to Pakistan. Ahmed was the link between British al-Qaeda sympathisers and overseas commanders. Had he been allowed to continue his work unchecked, few dispute that he was likely to cause incalculable damage.
Salahuddin Amin, from Luton, was convicted and sentenced to life in 2007 for conspiring to cause an explosion, by taking part in plans to detonate a massive fertiliser-based bomb. Amin himself sourced the bomb formula and detonators, and his conspirators had got as far as procuring and keeping 600kg of ammonium nitrate in a storage unit in Hanwell, west London. Potential targets included Bluewater shopping centre in Kent or the Ministry of Sound nightclub in London.
As we report today, both men have now launched an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), on the grounds that MI5 was allegedly complicit in their torture by Pakistani security services. Officials at the court have permitted their case to proceed. If Strasbourg does not deem the response of the British Government satisfactory, it will instigate a full hearing which, if successful, would almost inevitably lead to the quashing of the men's convictions.
This is a significant expansion of Strasbourg's interference in our judicial system - and, in the words of Lord Carlile, a leading QC and expert on terrorism legislation, a "completely unacceptable departure" that sees the ECHR intervening in "judgments of fact, as opposed to judgments of law".
The cases of Ahmed and Amin raise some extremely important questions. It must be acknowledged that - as David Davis MP has repeatedly argued - the question of the extent to which MI5 was involved in, or wilfully ignored, the ill-treatment of British suspects by the notorious Pakistani intelligence agencies is a deserving subject for scrutiny. But it is not strictly relevant to Ahmed and Amin's terrorism convictions. In the case of Ahmed, Lord Justice Hughes, an Appeal Court judge, specifically said that what happened to Ahmed in Pakistan "had no bearing on the trial": he was convicted on evidence obtained in England.
The Old Bailey trial involving Amin, too, was no knee-jerk conviction: it lasted 13 months, involved 105 prosecution witnesses, and the jury stayed out for a record 27 days. Out of seven individuals accused, two were acquitted. Even links between some of those on trial and the July 7 bombers were concealed from the jury, lest they prejudice their deliberations.
Britain must balance the administration of justice, which we take very seriously, with the necessary resolution to protect the lives of our citizens. The IRA famously said "We only have to be lucky once. You will have to be lucky always" - and that threat holds true for all terrorists. As Strasbourg seeks to over-rule our courts, one might also reflect that, should Britain be unlucky again at the hands of al-Qaeda, it will not be the members of the ECHR picking up the pieces.