Miami Herald : Britain frees 12 terror suspects detained in raids

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Britain frees 12 terror suspects detained in raids

By RAPHAEL G. SATTER | Associated Press Writer | April 21, 2009

LONDON -- British police released the last of 12 suspects rounded up in a series of dramatic anti-terror raids earlier this month, failing to charge any of the men, authorities said Wednesday.

The news was an embarrassment for British authorities, including Prime Minister Gordon Brown, who claimed at the time of their arrests that police had disrupted "a very big terrorist plot" that had been monitored "for some time."

The arrests were rushed in part because a police commissioner inadvertently exposed details of the operation to a photographer outside the prime minister's office.

Police had to scramble to catch the suspects before they learned of the leak, forgoing their usual dawn raids for a dramatic series of daytime operations across northern England on April 8.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick, one of the country's top counterterrorism officers, resigned after he inadvertently exposed details of the operation.

One suspect was forced to the ground by gun-toting officers in front of students at Liverpool John Moores University's library. Most of the men taken into custody were Pakistanis in Britain on student visas.

British officials have said they want to deport all but one of the men on national security grounds, but that may be difficult. A lawyer for three of the men said his clients would fight to continue their education in the U.K., while Islamabad opposes deportation.

"We think they should not be deported if there is no evidence against them and they can't be tried in Britain and if they're innocent," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Basit said Wednesday. "Our position is that they should be allowed to continue their studies and live a normal life."

Disquiet within the British Muslim community has grown in the two weeks since as media reports suggested that officers were failing to turn up significant evidence of a plot. One suspect was released April 11. Nine more were released Tuesday. The final two were released Wednesday.

Attorney Mohammed Ayub said his clients were in Britain lawfully and that their detention had been "a very serious breach of their human rights." The Muslim Council of Britain, an umbrella group for U.K. Muslim organizations, said the government was acting in bad faith by seeking to expel the students.

"Instead of releasing them with good grace and making clear a mistake has been made, the government is seeking to deport them citing a very vague national security threat," council spokesman Inayat Bunglawala told BBC radio. "That is a very dishonorable way of proceeding."

In Pakistan, the father of one of the suspects pleaded with British authorities to let his son stay in the country for another three months so he could receive his MBA.

"If they could not find any wrongdoing on their part then why should they be deported?" Haji Hazrat Ali, the father of Mohammed Ramzan, told The Associated Press.


Associated Press Writer Nahal Toosi in Islamabad, Pakistan and Ishtiaq Mahsud in Dera Ismail Khan, Pakistan contributed to this report.