'Mystery man' who faces secret charges wins bail

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 July, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 July, 2004, 12:00am

Deemed a security risk, the unnamed Sri Lankan must report to police daily

Bail was granted yesterday to the mystery immigrant deemed such a security threat that neither he nor his legal team had been fully informed of the case against him.

Mr Justice Michael Hartmann, in the Court of First Instance, was forced to skirt the details in open court yesterday when he set strict bail conditions for Sri Lankan 'PV', including that he cannot leave Hong Kong Island.

Moments after bail was granted, counsel representing the secretary for justice, William Marshall SC, successfully moved for the order to be stayed until tomorrow to allow him time to take advice on whether the government would appeal.

Mr Justice Hartmann said he could not share the 'security' information on PV, but added it would be 'damaging to the extreme if known by the applicant and passed to the public domain'.

'Determining the merits of whether bail should or should not be granted in this case has caused me considerable difficulty,' he said.

'I can understand the government's disquiet that must have been felt ... in March 2003 when the applicant, subject of a removal order, was placed in administrative detention pending that removal.'

He added the information had come from 'a reliable source' and was serious in its implication.

But Mr Justice Hartmann continued: 'The question that I must ask myself is whether this time, the applicant having been in detention for 14 months, I consider that there are grounds to believe that the applicant constitutes a threat to the peace, order and security of Hong Kong.'

He said PV may remain in custody separated from his wife and children for 'weeks or months'.

'No society based on the rule of common law which has the ancient tradition of protecting people against [things like] administrative detention, cannot view this with concern,' he said.

After reviewing the evidence, he granted bail with strict conditions. 'I am satisfied that the applicant at this time and to the immediate future does not constitute a threat of the kind I have outlined,' he said.

'If the applicant is being granted bail he should not be entitled to unrestricted movement throughout Hong Kong,' he said. 'I have good reasons for this but I am prevented from sharing this.'

He also ordered that PV cannot be released until he has secured somewhere to live. The court heard the Nepalese Union Church would vouch for PV and find accommodation. PV must also report twice daily to his nearest police station.

At the last open court hearing on June 24, Mr Justice Hartmann was told PV had been deemed such a security risk that neither he nor his lawyers were permitted to know the contents of the security brief.

That led the judge for the first time in Hong Kong's legal history to order the Department of Justice to create a list of 'special advocates' who would have access to the documentation and act on PV's behalf but not tell him the contents of the security brief.

In two closed-door hearings, Peter Duncan SC represented PV in his bail application.

Mr Justice Hartmann said the knowledge allowed to Mr Duncan had let him 'squarely address' matters that 'were of concern to me'.

'This is the first time in Hong Kong that the services of a special advocate have been used,' he said.

PV is resisting deportation to Sri Lanka for fear he will be tortured.

PV's wife and children were in court for yesterday's hearing.