View Full Version : All 12 men arrested during anti-terror raids released without charge

04-25-2009, 10:28 AM
Police face criticism over operation but deny that bringing arrests forward disrupted investigation.

The government today faced a barrage of criticism after police released without charge the remaining 11 suspects arrested a fortnight ago in the north-west of England over an alleged terror plot.

The last two men to be released joined nine others given their freedom last night and one freed on 11 April.

Opposition parties, human rights lawyers and Muslim groups accused the government of mistreating the suspects and botching the anti-terror operation.

The shadow security minister Baroness Neville-Jones said: "It is very worrying that, following an investigation based on strong intelligence into what the prime minister described as a serious terrorist plot, the police have not been able to present sufficient evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service on which it could lay charges against any of the 12 arrested."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "In the vital task of policing open societies, it is inevitable that you arrest more people than you charge and that sometimes suspicion will never be converted into evidence. But national security deportation is an extremely shadowy process and we need assurances from ministers that these powers will only be used for public safety and not for political signalling."

Gordon Brown had claimed the operation uncovered a "very big plot" against the UK.

In a statement, Greater Manchester police said: "The 11 men were questioned and the evidence gathered presented to the CPS who advised there was insufficient evidence gathered within the permitted timescales which would have allowed a warrant of further detention to be gathered or charges to be pursued.

"It is not possible to bail people under terrorism legislation so the men were released.

"Public safety is always the police's top priority and all information is fully considered and acted upon appropriately to minimise risk to the public."
In a press conference on the steps of the police headquarters, chief constable Peter Fahy said: "These people are innocent and they walk away … there are constant threats to this country but we totally respect the situation, we respect that they are innocent until proved guilty."

Fahy denied that there had been a dispute with the security services or that bringing the arrests forward by up to 12 hours had disrupted the investigation. He criticised speculation by outsiders, including retired officers, and said: "I have not conducted any speculation. I do not feel embarrassed or humiliated by what we have done because we have carried out our duty. I don't think a mistake has been made at all."

The BBC reported that security services continued to maintain that a terrorist plot had been disrupted by the operation.

Nine of the men are due to be deported after being handed over to the UK Border Agency but it was not immediately clear what would happen to the last two men. One of the 11 is understood to be a British national. The releases came after investigators spent 13 days searching for evidence following the arrests from a number of addresses in Greater Manchester, Liverpool and Lancashire under the Terrorism Act.

The police operation was condemned today by a spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain. Inayat Bunglawala told Radio 4's Today programme: "When these arrests took place in very dramatic circumstances with students being pulled from universities and thrown to the floor, we were told by the prime minister, no less, that this was part of a very big terrorist plot. Clearly there just has not been the evidence produced to substantiate such a plot."

The raids led to the resignation of the country's leading counterterrorism officer, Bob Quick, after he inadvertently allowed details of the operation to be photographed. Before the men had been interviewed the prime minister spoke of how the police had foiled a "very big plot", but as early as last Monday it emerged the government had spoken to Pakistani officials seeking reassurances that if the men were deported they would not be tortured.

The Guardian understands the decision to arrest the suspects on 8 April came after a three-way row between MI5, senior officers in the Metropolitan police and the Greater Manchester police. MI5 was strongly of the opinion that the arrests should wait while more intelligence was gathered. But in an example of the tensions between Whitehall counterterrorism officials and their counterparts in the police, the decision was made to take "executive action" even though the intelligence suggested there was little evidence to charge the suspects.

It is understood anti-terrorist officers in the Met disagreed with their counterparts in Greater Manchester that the arrests should be made. But the concern that there was a threat to the public led to the decision being made to move in.

Investigators had hoped to find something at the suspects' homes. But after initially hunting for, and failing to find, bomb-making equipment, they turned to the computers hoping that some evidence of a plot would turn up. They found nothing substantial.

Despite media reports and the plot being talked up by Brown, there was never any evidence that the suspects had identified targets for an attack.

The arrests came several hours earlier than the police had planned after Quick accidentally allowed a top secret briefing document on the raids, Operation Pathway, to be caught on camera by a photographer outside Downing Street, when he went to brief ministers on the action. The error led to his resignation after politicians condemned the security breach.
Officers from the north-west counterterrorism unit arrested 12 men under the Terrorism Act following the raids on 8 April. Of the 12 men initially arrested, 11 were Pakistani nationals, 10 held student visas and one was British.

A 12th suspect, an 18-year-old, was released without charge and handed to the Border Agency for deportation on 11 April.

The arrests led to claims that the student visa system contained loopholes which allowed abuse by people attempting to enter the country for illegal activities.

The government has admitted that the system is flawed and, two weeks ago, introduced tougher measures designed to root out false applications. At the time of the arrests counterterrorism sources expressed the fear that al-Qaida was using Pakistani students not known to the security services.

Sixty-eight people are currently on trial, or awaiting trial for alleged terrorist offences.

According to the Home Office, from 11 September 2001 to 31 March 2007, 1,228 terror-related arrests were made, excluding Northern Ireland.

Since January 2007, 92 people have been convicted in significant terrorist cases with 47 people pleading guilty.


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04-25-2009, 11:05 AM
Letter to The Times:

Sir, The news of the potential deportation of 11 Pakistani students, who were arrested on suspicion of terrorist-related activities, is causing a great deal of concern and disappointment within the British Muslim communities (report, April 23). They feel that the lack of concrete evidence implicating these individuals in an alleged terrorist plot should have resulted in their unconditional release, allowing them to continue their studies at their respective educational institutions.

We share their concerns and believe that in the absence of substantive proof of involvement in terrorism, deportation of the Pakistani students will not only appear to undermine the strong democratic and judicial values upon which our society is built, but will also impact negatively on the confidence of British Muslim communities in the British legal system and on those living abroad, who admire our legal and justice system as one of the fairest in the world.

While we also acknowledge that any decision to deport these individuals is likely to be taken in the interest of public safety and based on confidential information to which the public is not privy, we would appeal to the Home Office and other relevant agencies to consider their decisions, bearing in mind the consequences that might impact on the students’ future careers and also how their potential deportation might be used as a tool to spread extremism and hatred against the democratic system.

Dr Shaaz Mahboob
Vice-Chair, British Muslims for Secular Democracy


04-25-2009, 11:13 AM
Comment by Sarfraz Manzoor:

How to tell I'm not a terrorist

We Muslims clearly need to help panicking police and border officials. Would a big tattoo help?

So it turns out that the 12 Muslims arrested two weeks ago – you know, the ones who, according to *Gordon Brown, were planning a "very big terrorist plot" – were *doing nothing of the sort. The *arrests and subsequent release highlight how, in a time of heightened concern, anyone who is male and Muslim – and, even worse, happens to have *Pakistani heritage – can get mistaken for a potential terrorist. It isn't just the police who have a problem telling the difference. The trouble is that it isn't obvious who is a benign, peace-loving Briton who happens to be Muslim, and who is a rage-filled Islamist intent on causing mayhem.

It used to be simple to spot the fundamentalist: they would have tell-tale signs such as metal hooks and carry a charred copy of The Satanic Verses or a "Death to Israel" placard. It isn't so easy now. What does a moderate Muslim look like? How to tell if a bearded neighbour is a pious believer or plotting to blow up the local shopping centre? How to distinguish between the student who is taking photographs to send to relatives and the jihadist on reconnaissance?

If only these were theoretical dilemmas. Last week I was detained at JFK airport in New York. At the end of a lengthy grilling the officer turned to his colleague and said: "We have a 37-year-old male who has been to Pakistan in the past three years – shall I deport him?" The fact that the Pakistan trip was for a Radio 4 documentary, or that I had written a book which devoted a chapter to my fascination with the US was irrelevant. I was Pakistan-born and had a funny name so I was suspicious. It isn't that I don't understand the concern, or that some of it isn't legitimate; I wish I knew what I should say next time to prove I don't want to blow anyone up, and just want to spend a few days visiting galleries.

British Muslims are constantly called upon to denounce the extremists, to distance themselves from their ideas and actions. This leaves them forever on the defensive, having to react to the actions of the militant minority. So perhaps it's time to get proactive. That in itself is controversial: the standard response from British Muslims is to say that they shouldn't have to apologise for the actions of the extremists, that those Islamists are as Muslim as the KKK are Christian. But that theory doesn't help much in practice.

So here are a few suggestions for how to help the police, airport immigration and anyone else who finds it hard to differentiate between liberal and extremist Muslims. All Muslims who consider themselves liberal and tolerant could apply for a special card which when presented would show the holder was a "pre-approved Muslim", thus saving time at airports. Sure, some may say that such a card would represent a gross violation of human rights but I think it could be marketed like a credit card: membership has its privileges – in this case not being indiscriminately arrested or held up when travelling. Those who feel uncomfortable carrying a card could be offered an alternative – a white girlfriend perhaps, someone to vouch for the fact that they have successfully *integrated into society and have no immediate plans for a holy war.

Perhaps I could carry a sandwichboard with the slogan "I ❤ John Stuart Mill". That may prove too subtle, maybe something more permanent is needed to convince the sceptics. How about all moderate Muslims having "Don't panic – I'm Islamic" inked on their forearms by a government-approved tattoo artist. That way, the next time extremists march in Luton against returning British soldiers, the moderate Muslims would only have to walk around in a T-shirt and everyone could breathe easy *knowing they were not the bad guys.

There is one other possibility: that Muslims are presumed innocent, unless there is evidence to the contrary.


Sarfraz Manzoor is a writer and broadcaster. His television directing credits include The Great British Asian Invasion for Channel Four and he is a regular guest on BBC's Newsnight Review. His first book, Greetings From Bury Park, will be published in June 2007.

04-25-2009, 11:57 AM
All this anti-terrorism thing has gotten to far.

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04-25-2009, 06:19 PM
The law of England (as opposed to Scotland) is such that anyone tried before a jury must a proved to be guilty beyond reasonable doubt and if they are not convicted they are acquitted and said to be innocent (as opposed to Scotland where the case is pronounced ‘not proven’). Next; no case is brought without the evidence being reviewed by the prosecution service who will not sanction a charge unless there is a 51% chance of conviction. All that is fact. It follows that because someone is not charged, or for that matter charged but not convicted isn’t necessarily innocent.

Of course I don’t know anything about these 12 people than was in the news. It was in the news that the officer in charge of the anti-terrorism branch had to resign after inadvertently leaking news of the arrests which then had to be done hastily. It was also reported that they had entered under visas the study at universities here and some of them had not attended the designated studies.

Were they innocent of any wrong, unjustly arrested and deported – I suspect that Muslims will conclude that they were and non Muslims will conclude that ‘there is no smoke without fire.’ Are we still at risk and do we need to be vigilant - I think so.

04-27-2009, 07:27 AM
Review after terror suspects freed

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