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Secret evidence to be published

A newspaper group won an open justice fight today as judges agreed to reveal information heard in private during a High Court case relating to treatment of Taliban suspects and involving the Ministry of Defence.

Two judges agreed to publish some evidence given behind closed doors for security reasons in a High Court case three years ago, after an application by Associated Newspapers, which owns the Daily Mail and Mail on Sunday.

In the case, anti-war activist Maya Evans, of St Leonards, East Sussex, challenged the British Government's policy of transferring captured Taliban suspects to the Afghan authorities.

She accused members of the Afghan security service of ''practising torture and ill-treatment with impunity''.

Judges upheld the policy as lawful - providing safeguards were strengthened. They ruled that transfers could take place to two detention facilities in Afghanistan but not to one in Kabul, where there was a ''real risk of torture or other serious mistreatment''.

Associated Newspapers asked in July for "all or part" of a closed judgment given in the Evans case to be made public - and judges ruled on that application today.

Lord Justice Richards and Mr Justice Mitting said it would be wrong to open up all the confidential material judges had heard because such disclosure might put individuals concerned at risk. But they said a "gist" of the material could be put into the public domain without risk.

Judges said Associated Newspapers' application centred on information given in a witness statement by a senior Ministry of Defence official.

They said that in the Evans case, the statement by Barry Burton had been withheld from the public and from Ms Evans and her lawyers.

But in another case - featuring claims made by a detainee and heard last year - the statement had been "read out in open court".

Judges said that when asked why the statement had been withheld in one case but disclosed in another, a Cabinet Office spokesman said the sensitivity of material could change over time.

They released some of the evidence heard behind closed doors in the Evans case in 2010 in an annex to their written ruling on Associated Newspapers' application.

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