Pakistan Times : All Pakistani students released without charge in UK

Thursday, April 23, 2009

All Pakistani students released without charge in UK

'Pakistan Times' Foreign Desk | April 23, 2009

LONDON (UK): In a major embarrassment to the British Government all of the 12 suspects, ten of whom were Pakistani students, arrested by the UK counter terrorism unit in north west England have been released without any charge Wednesday.

On Tuesday evening, the authorities in Manchester released nine of the suspects and handed them over into the custody of the UK Borders Agency for deportation. This morning, on the expiry of the remand period, the remaining two were also freed and released to immigration authorities.

These men were arrested on April 9 in a major swoop termed by the Prime Minister Gordon Brown as a “big terrorist plot.” One suspect believed to be an Afghan national was released much earlier and also handed over the Borders Agency. The other was a British national who has been allowed to return to the community.

The remaining 11 men were questioned and the evidence gathered presented to the Crown Prosecution Service 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.

Under the rules, it is not possible to bail people under terrorism legislation so the men were released. The Manchester Police head Peter Fahy defended the arrests which he said was done on the information received. He 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.”

The Pakistan High Commissioner Wajid Shamsul Hasan welcomed the release of the students but stated that they have asked the British government the reasons to deport them even though they hold valid visas. “We are ready to extend the students all legal assistance as they came to UK on valid visas and have the right to stay here and complete their studies now that all charges against them have been dropped.”

Meanwhile, one of the lawyers representing the students has demanded public inquiry into the whole episode saying that the reputation of his client has been hurt.


Another report says that after apparently failing to find any solid evidence linking to terrorism, the British Police has released nine out of ten Pakistani students arrested on April 8 on suspicion of terror and transferred them into the custody of UK Borders Agency for possible deportation.

The Manchester-based North West Counter Terrorism Unit has released nine of those arrested as part of a national operation. The men, aged 30, 38, 22, 25, 28, 26, 26, 22 and 25 have all been handed over into the custody of the UK Borders Agency. Two men remain in police custody.

On April 8 officers from anti-Terrorism Unit arrested 12 men under the Terrorism Act. One was subsequently released into the custody of the UK Borders Agency. The remand of the arrested students was due to expire on Wednesday.

The Manchester Police in a statement said these arrests were carried out after a number of UK agencies gathered information that indicated a potential risk to public safety. Protecting the public is the main focus of the police, the statement added. It said that the officers are continuing to review a large amount of information gathered as part of this investigation and investigations of this nature are extremely complex.

Anti-terror police raided at least 14 properties in Liverpool, Manchester, and Clitheroe, Lancashire, on April 8. Searches are continuing at an address at Galsworthy Avenue, Cheetham Hill, Manchester.

According to a Home Office spokesman the UK was now seeking to remove the men 'on grounds of national security'. Of the 12 men arrested in the raids, 11 were Pakistani nationals, 10 held student visas and one was from Britain. The spokesman said: '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.'

The raids in north-west England had to be brought forward following a blunder by the UK’s most senior counter-terror officer. Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick quit his post a day after the operation, when he was photographed carrying the document to the Downing Street which revealed operational details.

Lawyer [Reacts]

Meanwhile, a lawyer representing three of 10 Pakistani students arrested on suspicion of terrorism and released Wednesday without charge, has said his clients are neither extremists nor terrorists and have the right to demand unreserved apology and will also challenge orders to remove them from the UK.

Mohammed Ayub, who represents three men facing deportation after being handed over to the UK Borders Agency, said in a statement that Sultan Sher, Mohammad Rizwan Sharif and Muhammad Umer Farooq were arrested in a blaze of publicity and speculation. He said: “Today, after 13 days in custody, during which no evidence of any wrongdoing was disclosed, they have now been released without charge. Our clients were arrested in a blaze of publicity and speculation. Their release without charge and the wrong that has been done to them deserves to be accompanied by a similar amount of publicity.

Ayub added that his clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time. “Their arrest and detention has been a very serious breach of their human rights. Now, adding insult to injury, attempts are being made to deport them. We intend to challenge the deportation orders and, if necessary, will take our fight to the highest courts.

“Our clients are entirely innocent and are entitled to complete the studies they came here for. We call for an independent inquiry into Operation Pathway so that lessons can be learned as to how this investigation could have got it so terribly wrong and so that no other innocent person should have to suffer the ordeal that our clients have.

The UK Border Agency has issued deportation orders on the basis of their being involved in extremist activity and therefore their presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good on the grounds of national security, he said by adding; his clients intended to appeal the deportation orders and their basis for the orders is not acceptable. “As a minimum our clients are entitled to an unreserved apology and no further action should be taken against them.”