SMH : British 'terrorist' suspects released

Thursday, April 23, 2009

British 'terrorist' suspects released

Paola Totaro | Herald Correspondent in London | April 23, 2009

ALL 12 men arrested in armed, daylight raids to thwart what the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, described as "a very big terrorist plot" have been released without charge.

The men were all taken into custody on April 8 in an operation launched prematurely after Scotland Yard's counter-terrorism boss, Bob Quick, accidentally exposed details of the plan to the lenses of Downing Street photographers as he visited Mr Brown for a briefing.

Eleven of the men - all Pakistani - face deportation after their transfer overnight into the custody of the UK Border Agency. Failure to bring charges against any of the men emerged as British police were forced to release the final two suspects they had in custody last night.

The first men to be freed, aged between 22 and 38, had spent 13 days in detention, while an 18-year-old student was transferred to the custody of the UK Border Agency after three days.

Mohammed Ayub, a lawyer for three of the men, has called for an independent inquiry into the operation, warning the deportation orders would also be challenged.

"Our clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time," he said.

"They are neither extremists nor terrorists. Their arrest and detention has been a serious breach of their human rights. As a minimum they are entitled to an unreserved apology."

Mr Quick, the Assistant Commissioner for Specialist Operations, resigned his post after the bungle, admitting that he had compromised a high-level security operation. The Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, defended the operation in the House of Commons this week, insisting that the raids had been brought forward "by a matter of hours".

However, The Times of London reported last night that that even before Mr Quick quit there had been serious disagreement between Scotland Yard, which is supposed to have national responsibility for counter-terrorism, the North West Counter-Terrorism Unit, led by Greater Manchester Police, and MI5 over the timing of the raids.

The Times reported security sources saying that the arrests were premature, complaining that police had panicked after picking up intelligence "chatter" that appeared to discuss targets in Manchester.