Times : Gordon Brown defends Pakistani terror deportations

Monday, April 27, 2009

Gordon Brown defends Pakistani terror deportations

April 27, 2009

Gordon Brown today defended plans to deport 11 Pakistani students who were arrested in a suspected terrorist plot even though no charges were brought against any of them.

The group, whose plight has provoked great anger in Pakistan, appealed against deportation today. The Pakistani Prime Minister raised the issue with Mr Brown at a meeting in Islamabad this afternoon.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari delivered an apparent snub to Mr Brown by cancelling a joint news conference, leaving Yusuf Gaza Gilani, the Prime Minister, to take his place.

At the press conference, Mr Brown said: “I think we have got to recognise that we have both got problems that are affecting both the security of our citizens and the sentiments in our country, with terrorist plots that have been planned and some people are trying to execute.

“This terrorist threat that exists cannot be ignored, it cannot be wished away. Both the Prime Minister and I know that it is important that governments around the world take action to deal with violent extremism. Thousands of young people studying in Britain come from Pakistan and we welcome them but wherever there is a problem we have got to take action.”

But although he hailed a “new chapter” in the relationship between Britain and Pakistan, the episode appeared to have cast a shadow over his visit.

The Pakistani Prime Minister, standing alongside Mr Brown, confirmed that he had raised the case during their meeting and appealed to him to allow the men to continue their studies in Britain.

“We had a concern. We have discussed that whatever information is shared with us we will examine it, but at the same time there are institutions and we will work under that bit of the constitution,” Mr Gilani said.

“I think the law will take its own course and I would also request the Prime Minister that their studies should not be discontinued.”

All 12 suspects arrested in a Operation Pathway which was designed to thwart what the Prime Minister called “a very big terrorist plot” have been released without charge.

Eleven of the men, all Pakistani nationals, were transferred into the custody of the UK Borders Agency pending a deportation hearing.

Mohammed Ayub, a lawyer for three of the men, called for an independent inquiry into the operation.

The arrests were brought forward by 12 hours after Bob Quick, Scotland Yard’s head of counter-terrorism, accidentally disclosed details of the raids to Downing Street photographers while on his way to brief Gordon Brown and Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary.

It was hoped that the arrests and searches would produce evidence of bomb-making activity or components. But officers failed to find uncover enough evidence to result in any charges.