Judge Abdel-Rahman presided over the trial of Saddam Hussein and his co-defendants in Iraq to not show enlarge option
Raouf Abdel-Rahman handed John Reid's department one of its most politically sensitive decisions after coming to the UK with his family on a visitors visa because he feared for his life.
Mr Abdel-Rahman, who is of Kurdish origin, is thought to have arrived with his family two weeks before Saddam was hanged on December 30 last year.
“He fears for his life and the lives of family members”, Nasser al-Badri of Al Jazeera TV said.
Judges are regularly targeted by insurgents in Iraq. The Iraqi High Tribunal saw three of Saddam's defence lawyers murdered, as well as a few of the IHT's own staff.
Mr Abdel-Rahman, who headed the Supreme Iraq Criminal Tribunal that heard the dictator’s trial for genocide, also sentenced other top aides of the former Iraqi dictator to death.
Any person claiming asylum must be able to demonstrate that he or she has a “well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion" in their country of nationality or former country of residence.
Tonight the whereabouts of Mr Abdel-Rahman and his family were not known, but he is likely to be under close protection.
Dashty Jamal, of the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, said: “The fleeing of Judge Raouf to the UK has proved that the Iraqi government is unable to protect anyone in Iraq and is not representing the Iraqi people”.
He added: “Judge Raouf has left Iraq because of the political crisis in Iraq.”
Basam Ridha Al-Hussaini, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's liason to the Iraqi High Tribunal, insisted that the judge had requested a 30-day holiday from the government, which he was enjoying in England.
"He didn't apply for political asylum in England. He requested 30 days off. He is enjoying a vacation with his family in England," Hussaini said. "I talked with him myself. I've been talking with him on a daily basis."
He said the judge didn't want to speak to the media and felt he had no need to defend himself.
The number of Iraqi asylum applicants in the UK in 2006, excluding dependents, was 850 compared with 1414 in 2005 and 1695 in 2004. In the last three months of 2006 Iraq was sixth in the top ten applicant nationalities with Iran in top position.
Mr Abdel-Rahman, who took over the trial after the resignation of the former chief judge Rizgar Amin, was born in the Kurdish town of Halabja, where 5,000 residents were killed in 1988 after Saddam’s forces launched a chemical gas attack on the town in the deadliest chemical weapons attack since the First World War.
With his more hardline approach to the defendants and their conduct at the trial, the judge presided over some of the most dramatic moments in the courtroom, featuring at the centre of several stormy exchanges with Saddam, including the moment the former dictator’s death sentence was declared.
That particular exchange saw Mr Abdel-Rahman attempting to read out the penalty as Saddam shouted: “Down with the invaders. God is great.... To hell with your articles and clauses...”