Wed, 07 Feb 2007

Reason of arrest is no reason for questioning - is this reasonable?

Last week, nine men were arrested during anti-terrorism raids in Birmingham. It has been widely reported that, according to senior sources in the police and intelligence services, the motivation for these arrests is that the Police suspected these men to be involved in an alleged plot to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier here in the UK.

Today, two of the men were released without charge. Gareth Peirce who is defending them, said:
They have left the police station without any better understanding of why they were there than when they first arrived seven days ago.

Not a word was ever mentioned to either of them about a plot to kidnap, or the grisly suggestion of a beheading, or even of a soldier at all.

Both have been met with a consistent refusal over seven days for any explanation for their arrest. They are convinced that others in the police station must be as innocent as they, and urge that they also be swiftly released.
Last June, Mohammed Abdul Kahar and Abul Koyair were released without charge after their dramatic arrest in Forest Gate for their suspected involvement in an alleged biological terror plot. 250 officers participated in the arrest, some of them wearing full chemical, biological, nuclear and radiological (CBNR) suits and respirators. There were widespread press reports of police looking for chemical factory and suicide chemical vests. Police claimed to be acting on 'specific intelligence'.

Gareth Pierce also represented this family. Here's a transcript from an interview:
It's a very odd thing, the whole enormity of a massive armed raid and immediate publicity put out by the police, that this was suspected chemical warfare, a suicide operation about to be mounted on specific intelligence. [...]

However, within the police station, a man who had been shot through the chest was discharged from the hospital, wholly prematurely, and the hospital bed taken to a cell in Paddington Green police station. It was grotesque, a grotesque experience, in which the police never once asked either of the brothers about chemical weapons, about suicide attempts, about anything that they might have been suspected of having. The police were begged, for heaven sake, "tell us why we were in the police station?" "Why did you arrest us?" "Who was it who said this?" And an answer came there none. They were just suddenly released.
There's clearly propaganda, and likely poor intelligence, at play, but what I find very curious is why when the Police arrest someone for a very serious offence that is leaked all over the press, they don't ask, during the formal interview, any question about how those under arrest may be involved in what is said to be the cause of the arrests.

Such theatrical arrests distract from other current events. They show the Government and the Police are tackling terrorism head on. With longer and longer pre-charge detention, there's a chance of finding something to prosecute the arrestees for while they're being held. What rarely makes headlines and is too soon forgotten is how much impact such arrests have on the life of those that have had to go through all this nonsense. The effects last much longer than the time in the station's cell or the bullet wound recovery (such as for Mohammed Abdul Kahar).

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