The Herald : ‘Terror plot’ pair to go free as MP calls police operation a catalogue of errors

Friday, July 17, 2009

‘Terror plot’ pair to go free as MP calls police operation a catalogue of errors

July 17, 2009

Two Pakistani students accused of being part of an alleged terror plot are to be released from custody.

Sultan Sher and Janus Khan were among 12 men held during raids in the north west of England in April.

The pair, who are in their mid 20s, were detained as the Home Office sought to deport them, claiming they posed a threat to national security.

But that allegation was dropped yesterday, a solicitor for one of the men said.

Mohammed Ayub said the pair would be released subject to conditions, including wearing an electronic tag and reporting to police.

Home Office officials said the government would now seek to deport them for visa irregularities.

A Home Office spokesman said: "These individuals no longer meet the required criteria for detention on the grounds of national security.

"They are currently detained pending removal on immigration grounds, but legally we cannot hold them indefinitely.

"We are therefore putting in place suitable and robust measures to ensure we are fully aware of their whereabouts as we progress their cases for removal."

Mr Ayub said the terror allegations against his client were "groundless" and he would oppose the continuing attempts to deport him.

He said: "It beggars belief that the Secretary of State could behave like this.

"Why was my client held in custody for all this time?"

"I wish to state my client is entitled to an unreserved apology and no further action should be taken against him."

Of the remaining men held during the raid, one has joint British and Pakistani citizenship and has been released.

Another has returned to Pakistan voluntarily and an Afghan man is in custody pending deportation for being in the UK illegally.

The other seven face deportation on the grounds of national security. Their case returns to court on July 27.

Sher, living in Manchester, and Khan, living in Liverpool, were arrested on April 18 as part of Operation Pathway.

The operation was launched early after Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick of Metropolitan Police was photographed going in to Downing Street with a document giving details of the police plan. Mr Quick subsequently resigned.

Keith Vaz, chairman of the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee, called for Home Secretary Alan Johnson to make an urgent statement over the matter.

He said: "The release of two Pakistani students who were alleged to have been part of terrorist activity begs a number of questions as to why they were detained in the first place.

"There appears to have been a catalogue of errors.

"It is important that the Home Secretary makes a statement as a matter of urgency to clarify exactly what happened."

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