Guardian : Mistaken al-Qaida suspect tells of his shock at anti-terror arrest

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Mistaken al-Qaida suspect tells of his shock at anti-terror arrest

Pakistani student Muhammad Adil describes ordeal after arrest at gunpoint at Liverpool John Moores University

Anthea Lipsett | April 9, 2009

Muhammad Adil, a 27-year-old Pakistani student who was briefly arrested yesterday as part of the anti-terror raids in the north of England, told the Guardian of his shock at being held as a suspected terrorist.

Adil, from Peshawar, is in his final year of an MBA at Liverpool John Moores University and spent most of the yesterday in the library working on the dissertation he has to submit by 30 April.

He agreed to meet a friend, a 25-year-old Pakistani studying accountancy at a British college, because he owed him £100. They were sitting on benches outside the building eating peanuts and talking when the anti-terror officers arrived.

"Special forces with telescopes on their machine guns came and said 'hands up'," he said. "I thought maybe they are students playing with me. My friend was sitting on the bench. They grabbed my wrists and pushed my friend and he fell down on the other side of the [flowerbed] wall."

Adil said he told the officers he was a student and was told to "shut up". The police made him lay down, and tied his hands behind his back. "I kept saying 'I'm normal'. I couldn't see my friend but the officers were on him. They said 'don't move'.

"They asked me if I knew why I was being arrested – as a suspect of terrorism, I was laughing at that. I'm a student."

Adil said he was kept lying face down on the floor with his hands tied behind his back for an hour with the officers pointing guns at him.

"I asked them to tell me what's wrong. I was using a polite voice. I ask him how long, do you have any proof that I'm a terrorist? I said I don't know what you're talking about, I'm a student. I was laughing in shock at that point and the officer told me it's not the time to laugh."

Adil has been studying in the UK for two years. He works part-time as a security guard for a Manchester-based firm, which is where he met the friend who was arrested with him yesterday. They became friendly after working a shift together in December.

After about an hour of being held on the floor, the police took the two men to a police station in separate cars.

"They picked me up from the floor but kept me handcuffed and searched me all over then took me to the local police station, and questioned me about my name, age, where I lived, how long I'd lived there, the colour of my eyes, my friends."

Adil said three other men whom he did not know were also being held at the station.

Several hours later, Adil said the officers' attitude towards him changed. Adil believes this is because they had confirmed he was a legitimate student.

"When they confirmed everything they were talking me to like we were friends and asked if I wanted water or the toilet. He said 'Are you okay' and I said my hands are tied if that's okay. I talk too much. It's my habit."

Adil has yet to complete his dissertation, but says he hopes to return to his home country as soon as possible. "This has totally changed what I have learned about this country and my time here," he said. "They are clearly identifying Muslim students. It's a big insult … The first thing I will do is leave this country as soon as possible. The police officer said your country [Pakistan] is not secure but I still prefer to live there. I love my country."

He believes his friend is one of the 12 men still being held by police over the suspected al-Qaida terror plot.