Manchester Evening News : 'Terror' probe: all 12 released

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

'Terror' probe: all 12 released

April 22, 2009

ALL 12 men arrested in connection with an alleged bomb plot in Manchester have now been released without charge from police custody.

The last remaining two suspects were released this morning after the Crown Prosecution Service decided there was insufficient evidence to press charges.

Police had earlier transferred ten of the men into the custody of the UK Borders Agency and the Government wants to deport them to their home country of Pakistan.

All the men were arrested earlier this month after raids in Cheetham Hill, Manchester, and also in Liverpool and Lancashire. None of them have been charged with any offences.

A lawyer acting for three of the men described their arrests and detention as a "very serious breach of their human rights".

Mohammed Ayub of Chambers Solicitors, Bradford, said the attempts to deport his clients would only add "insult to injury" and vowed to fight the move.

In a statement, he said: "Our clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time. Our clients are neither extremists nor terrorists.

"Their arrest and detention has been a very serious breach of their human rights."

The operation on April 8 was brought forward after an embarrassing security breach by a senior officer.

Then Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick was photographed carrying documents clearly marked "secret" with details of an ongoing police investigation into Downing Street.

His gaffe meant the raids were staged earlier than planned, and he resigned the next day.

One man, aged 18, was released into the custody of the UK Borders Agency on April 11. Nine men, aged between 22 and 38, were released last night by Greater Manchester Police into the custody of the agency.

A Home Office spokesman said: "We are seeking to remove these individuals on grounds of national security.

"The Government's highest priority is to protect public safety. Where a foreign national poses a threat to this country we will seek to exclude or to deport, where this is appropriate."

But Mr Ayub insisted his clients should be allowed to "complete the studies they came here for" and said he intended to challenge the deportation orders.

He added: "As a minimum our clients are entitled to an unreserved apology and no further action should be taken against them."

The arrested men included 11 Pakistani nationals and one Briton. Ten of the suspects held student visas.

GMP Chief Constable Peter Fahy said: “As there are ongoing issues of matters of national security around this investigation, it does limit what we are able to say.

“This has been an extremely complex investigation that has involved officers working closely with other agencies to gather and examine large amounts of evidence.

“We had a duty to act on 9 April to protect the public and a subsequent duty to investigate what lay before us.

“When it comes to the safety of the public we can’t take any chances, we must act on information we receive. We don’t take these decisions lightly and only carry out this kind of action if it was wholly justified.

“I would like to extend my thanks to the communities who have been affected by the work we have been doing over the fast few weeks. People have been extremely supportive and worked with us to ensure we’ve been able to work effectively.

“Over the coming weeks we will continue to work with communities and address any concerns they may have. This North West Counter Terrorism Unit will continue to work to protect people living in the North West and across the UK.”

The men facing deportation have the right to contest the move through the Special Immigration Appeals Commission.

It can overturn decisions by the Secretary of State to deport people from the UK on national security grounds.

The panel granted bail to Dr Mohammed Asha, who was cleared of involvement in a car bomb plot in London and Glasgow, in January this year, despite Government claims that he was a risk.

The Jordanian was allowed to return to work and will go to a full deportation hearing later in the year.

The raids in the north-west raised questions over security checks on foreign students, which shadow home secretary Chris Grayling declared were a "major loophole" in immigration rules.

He said: "The Government admits that student visas are a major loophole in our border controls.

"Given these latest revelations we need to urgently step up monitoring of applications from parts of the world where we face terror issues."

Government figures showed 42,292 student visas were issued to Pakistani students between April 2004 and April 2008.