Times : Pakistani students held in anti-terror raids abandon deportation fight

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pakistani students held in anti-terror raids abandon deportation fight

Andrew Norfolk | August 22, 2009

Two Pakistani students arrested during counter-terrorism raids in Manchester and Liverpool were due to fly home last night after giving up their fight against deportation.

Abdul Wahab Khan, 26, and Shoaib Khan, 27, were among 12 people — ten of them Pakistanis on student visas — detained in April when the security services claimed to have foiled an al-Qaeda bomb plot.

None of the 12 was charged with a criminal offence. One, a British citizen, was released without charge and a young Afghan man is awaiting deportation for being in Britain illegally.

After their release from police custody, the ten Pakistanis were held in category A prisons pending appeals against the Home Office’s decision to deport them on the grounds of national security.

Last month Janas Khan and Sultan Sher, in their mid-20s, were released after it was accepted that there was no evidence that they were involved in terrorism. They are facing deportation because of visa irregularities.

One of the remaining eight, Tariq ur Rehman, 38, returned voluntarily to Pakistan in June after withdrawing his appeal against deportation. Another man took the same step this week.

They will be joined in Pakistan by the two Khans, who were due to fly to Islamabad yesterday evening, leaving four men in prison pending a hearing before the Special Immigration Appeals Commission next March. They include the so-called ringleader of the group, who allegedly exchanged e-mails with an al-Qaeda associate intercepted by M15. They were said to include coded references to a planned terrorist strike in Britain between April 15 and 20 this year.

The e-mails referred to a forthcoming nikah, an Islamic wedding, which was taken to mean the proposed bomb attack, and mentioned girls’ names thought to represent explosive ingredients. Solicitors for the men say that the e-mails were innocent exchanges about social matters.

The detention without charge of the Pakistanis has created tensions between Britain and Pakistan. When the remaining men’s appeals are heard next March they will have been held in custody or prison for 11 months.

A campaign group, Justice for the North West 10, has fought for their release on bail. Their families in Pakistan say that the men were genuine students. In May The Times revealed that eight of the arrested men were enrolled at a bogus college set up in 2006 as a front for a mass immigration fraud.

The Manchester College of Professional Studies, a converted pub south of the city centre, claimed to have 50 students but had secretly enrolled 1,797. It had two classrooms and three teachers.

Abdul Wahab Khan, from the North West Frontier province, and Shoaib Khan, from Punjab, were on its books. Their solicitor, Amjad Malik, said yesterday that they had decided to return to Pakistan after the failure of their bail applications last week.

Mr Malik said that they had been treated at Manchester prison like murderers or rapists.

He demanded an inquiry into their allegations that they had gone on hunger strike after being given meals containing human faeces.

“They have been in detention for 134 days. They are in category A conditions and are strip-searched,” he said.

“They realised that they were going to remain in custody when they haven’t committed any crime.”

“Also, Ramadan is coming nearer and they are not happy with the facilities in place in prison, so they wish to spend their Eid [the Muslim festival Eid al-Adha] with their families in Pakistan.”