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Pakistan urges apology over terror arrests
« on: April 26, 2009, 09:55:41 PM »
Pakistan urges apology over terror arrests
LONDON (AFP) Pakistan's high commissioner to London urged the government to apologise over the arrest of 11 Pakistani men in anti-terror raids this month, after the men were all released without charge.

Wajid Shamsul Hasan told the Financial Times that the men, who were arrested in raids across northwest England on April 8 and are now facing deportation, should be allowed to remain in Britain.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said at the time that the raids were part of a probe into a "major terrorist plot", but all 12 men originally arrested -- including one Briton -- have now been released.

The government's independent reviewer of terror laws, Lord Carlile, has said he would be investigating the anti-terror operation and the arrests.

"It is clear these people have neither violated UK law nor committed a crime. Why should they be punished? It seems the arrests took place on the basis of a hoax," Hasan said.

He said the authorities "owe an apology not only to these boys but also to the government of Pakistan for having not done enough homework (gathering evidence)... The men should be compensated."

Police defended their actions on the grounds of public safety, and a senior officer insisted no mistakes had been made.

"I don't feel embarrassed or humiliated about what we have done because we have carried out our duty," Greater Manchester Police's Chief Constable Peter Fahy told reporters Wednesday.

"I don't think a mistake has been made, no."

Announcing the release of the suspects, a police statement said prosecutors had advised that there was "insufficient evidence gathered within the permitted timescales which would have allowed a warrant of further detention to be gathered or charges to be pursued".

The 11 Pakistanis have been handed over to immigration officials, who have said they will be deported to Pakistan.

Brown's spokesman told reporters the government was "seeking to remove these individuals on grounds of national security."

He added: "The government's highest priority is to protect public safety. Where a foreign national poses a threat to the country, we will seek to exclude or deport them where appropriate."

The raids had to be hastily brought forward after the country's top counter-terrorism policeman, Bob Quick, was photographed holding clearly legible briefing notes on the operation. He resigned over the gaffe.

The notes stated police were investigating a plot that was "AQ-driven", meaning Al-Qaeda.

A Muslim community leader in Manchester, Afzal Khan, criticised the police, saying detectives could "not keep getting it wrong" because such instances were sapping community confidence in the police.

The government has sought to engage Britain's Muslim communities in the fight against extremism following the July 2005 attacks on London by British-born Muslims.

Of the dozen arrested on April 8, one 18-year-old student was released after three days, nine were freed on Tuesday and the final two let go on Wednesday.

Revelations that 10 of the Pakistani men were on student visas have put Brown's government under pressure to tighten its visa rules.

Relatives of the men in Pakistan had pleaded their innocence, and a Britain-based lawyer for three of the former suspects has vowed to fight any attempt to deport them.

"Our clients are neither extremists nor terrorists. Their arrest and detention has been a very serious breach of their human rights," said Mohammed Ayub.

Copyright 2009 AFP. All rights reserved. More