Thirteen people arrested in UK anti-terror raids

CRACKDOWN: The UK's Muslim community said it is being victimized, a claim supported by a parliamentary report released yesterday


Thu, Aug 05, 2004 - Page 1

Thirteen men arrested in an anti-terrorist swoop faced questioning yesterday following a series of raids which police said were part of a continuing investigation.

The arrests brought complaints from the Muslim community that it was being targeted unfairly -- a claim supported by a parliamentary report released yesterday.

The men, in their 20s and 30s, were arrested in London, Bushey, Luton and Blackburn.

All were arrested "on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism," and were brought to London for questioning, the Metropolitan Police said.

Police released no details of the nationality and religious affiliation of those arrested, but news reports yesterday suggested that at least some of the suspects are of south Asian origin and are Muslims.

"There is a feeling in the community that they are being victimized," said Yasin Rehman of the Luton Council of Mosques. One of Tuesday's arrests was in Luton, 50km north of London.

Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights supported that complaint, and called for changes in the emergency laws enacted soon after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the US.

"There is mounting evidence that the powers under the Terrorism Act are being used disproportionately against members of the Muslim community in the UK," the committee reported.

The UK opted out from a part of the European Convention on Human Rights to enact legislation to allow some suspects to be imprisoned without trial.

"If the threat from international terrorism is to continue for the foreseeable future, the committee considers that an alternative way must be found to deal with that threat without derogating indefinitely from important human rights considerations," the legislators reported.

The arrests did not appear to be linked to information Pakistani authorities recently said they had uncovered about threats to the UK and US.

Pakistan's information minister said on Monday his country found plans for new attacks against the US and UK on a computer seized during the arrest last month of a senior al-Qaeda suspect wanted for the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa.

Asked whether the arrests on Tuesday were linked to the recent Pakistani discovery, UK police declined to answer directly, but noted that the investigation leading to the arrests had been underway for some time.

Police will have up to two weeks to hold the men arrested on Tuesday before deciding whether to charge them.

UK authorities say the threat from terrorism remains high, but they have not warned of any specific threat like that announced in the US.

The intelligence behind the latest US terror warnings was as much as four years old, and law enforcement officials are trying to determine whether the plot was current.