• Student was held in terror raid 'because of his faith'
• Property searches scaled back as another man freed
The father of a Pakistani computer science student detained under anti-terrorism laws has come forward to defend his son, calling him victim of anti-Muslim discrimination.
"This is all about his prayers and his beard. I am his father and I know him. He is not involved in any mysterious plot," the man, whose son was one of 11 Pakistani students picked up in raids across the north-western England last week, told the Guardian in an interview in Pakistan
Meanwhile, one of the 12 men arrested in the raids was released by police
but handed over to the UK Border Agency as a probable preliminary step to deportation. Searches of properties in Manchester and Liverpool were scaled down yesterday, as police were given a further seven days by magistrates to continue questioning the other men detained. They are understood to range in age from 22 to 41 and to be in the UK on student visas.
But the father of one said yesterday his son was a cricket-loving, religious-minded young man from a good family who was only interested in his studies. Before making arrests MI5 surveillance teams monitored his email and observed several suspects photographing shopping areas and a nightclub in Manchester.
The man's father said by phone from Peshawar: "We have done nothing wrong. We have nothing to hide."
Since learning of the arrests in Urdu newspapers last Friday, the suspect's father said there had been some serious reporting errors. For one, he said, his family came from Karak district in the south of the North West Frontier Province, not the tribal areas, where Taliban warlord Baitullah Mehsud holds sway, as has been reported. "This is a great offence," the man said. "We are from an old district, with educated people. Not the tribal belt." His son was in his third year of computer studies in Manchester and his visa was valid until next September. The last time he saw him was during the Eid ul-Fitr holiday last autumn. "He appreciated the UK system, especially the freedom and facilities [it offered]. He was satisfied there - he could go to the mosque and he could study," the man said.
Unusually, many of those arrested last week were Pashtuns from North-West Frontier Province, and appear to come from well-to-do families. The relatives of two other detainees gave a press conference in the city of Dera Ismail Khan, at the southern tip of the province.
Meanwhile, the uncle of another suspect, speaking in an emotional voice by phone, told the Guardian that he and other relatives had regularly sent their nephew sums from £800 to £3,000 to help pay for his studies.
"He was too ambitious about his life and his studies. He was not up to any mischief. So I say to the UK government, please don't spoil his future," he said.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, a veteran Pakistani journalist, said: "Maybe some careless conversation or act has landed them in trouble. A few of them may be involved in this case, but I don't think it's a real terrorist plot."
In Islamabad, a Pakistani intelligence official said that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency had no involvement in the case prior to last week's raids.
He dismissed reports linking the arrests to Rashid Rauf, a British-Pakistani implicated in a previous alleged plot and believed to have died in an American drone strike.
Mohammed Shafiq, chief executive of the Ramadhan Foundation, a Muslim youth organisation in Manchester, appealed for the local community to stay calm yesterday.