Asian Image : Emails led to North West terror arrests

Friday, August 14, 2009

Emails led to North West terror arrests

August 14, 2009

A GROUP of men arrested in a major anti-terrorist operation were denied bail because of a series of emails which could implicate them in an al Qaida bomb plot, a judge has revealed.

The five, including one man arrested in Clitheroe, were among 12 people held by police in raids across the north west of England in April as part of Operation Pathway.

They were never charged with any criminal offences.

Two of the 12 suspects were arrested at the Clitheroe Homebase store where they were working as security guards.

They were not from the area and were staying at the Brooklyn Guest House, Pimlico Road while in the town.

Along with two other Pakistani men, who did not apply for bail, they five are challenging attempts by the Government to deport them on the grounds that they pose a threat to national security.

At a hearing of the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) at the end of last month the men were denied bail.

Giving the reasons for the decision for the first time, Mr Justice Mitting said a series of emails exchanged between an address attributed to one of the men and another attributed to an al Qaida associate were "central to the open case against the appellants".

The emails from the man, identified only as XC, to "Sohaib" appear to refer to a "nikah", or wedding.

In a written statement, Mr Justice Mitting said: "They appear to refer to XC's interest in named girls and to a nikah (wedding) after 15th and before 20th April 2009 with one of them, Nadia.

"The assessment of the security service is that references to named girls could be to ingredients from which an explosive device could be made and that the reference to the nikah is 'most likely' reference to an intended attack."

Mr Justice Mitting continued: "The first, and ultimately determinative issue, is, therefore: is the assessment of the security service plainly wrong?"

Richard Hermer QC, for XC, told last month's hearing the security service's account of the emails was far-fetched and the emails were no more than innocent social discussions.

Mr Justice Mitting said the final interpretation of the emails would have to wait until a full SIAC hearing takes place next year.

The Home Secretary's case also rests on evidence that the five men attended one or both of two meetings on March 23 and April 1 in which the "nikah" was also discussed.

Lawyers for the men have sought assurances that they will not be arrested and detained indefinitely if they are forced to go back to Pakistan.

Of the five men, students Abdul Khan, 26, and Shoaib Khan, 27, from Liverpool, have waived their right to anonymity.