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Shaikh Asif Farooqui released without charge but questions still remain

Shaikh Asif Farooqui released without charge but questions still remain

Categories: Latest News

Tuesday November 24 2009

Shaikh Asif Farooqui, whose arrest last week under terrorism legislation sparked outrage among Bolton’s Muslim community, was released without charge on Sunday evening.

The Shaikh’s arrest prompted local Muslims to launch an e-petition calling for his immediate release and to organise a public meeting at Bolton Town Hall, following his discharge, to discuss the effects of North West counter-terrorism policing and the unit’s decision to arrest an elderly religious man widely respected in the local community for preaching tolerance and peaceful co-existence.

After the arrest of a group of Muslims from Blackburn and Burnley on the M65 in March this year, when they traveled as part of a convoy of vehicles loaded with aid for Gaza, a public meeting with the local constabulary was organised to ‘clear the air’.

The local police force was invited to answer questions from the Muslim community and to quell anger and criticism at the detaining of innocent Muslims and the spectacular manner in which they were arrested on the motorway.

The Counter-Terrorism Unit in the North West, which was responsible for the arrest of Shaikh Asif Farooqui, is not without questions of its own to answer to the local community. Among them, these posed by Bradford Muslim:

  • Which officer was responsible for the decision to arrest the Shaykh. He has some serious explaining to do, on the very specific question of the arrest of the Shaykh himself – why was it necessary?
  • Who trains and has trained the counter-terrorism unit in the North West (CTU NW)?
  • Which Muslims were responsible for advising on this arrest, if any?
  • How many Muslims do GMP (Greater Manchester Police) or CTU NW employ or have in scrutiny positions?

We hope Bolton’s Muslims, who mobilized so quickly and effectively to campaign for the release of Shaikh Asif Farooqui, don’t cease their efforts now that the Shaikh has been released, but pursue this matter until some adequate answers are provided to them by NW CTU.

Meanwhile, a report by Lord Carlile, the government’s independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, into the arrests of Pakistani students by Greater Manchester Police in the so-called ‘Easter bomb plot’ criticises GMP for ‘failing to obtain prior advice from counter-terrorism specialists at the Crown Prosecution Service.’

The report argues that this could have reduced the number of arrests made or enabled police to better argue the case for detaining the men longer while investigations and searches continued.

From the report:

There are two lessons to be drawn in this context; I recommend that the police and the CPS take immediate steps to revise their procedures to reflect them. The first is that all police officers involved in counterterrorism policing should be trained in the law relating to arrests and its potential effect on detention under TA2000 Schedule 8. The second is that CPS expert and directly vetted lawyers should be informed of ongoing inquiries likely to result in arrests, well before any such arrests take place, and they should be asked to advise on the state of the intelligence, information and evidence as the inquiry in question progresses.

‘Had the recommendations in the previous paragraph been followed in Operation Pathway, although the authorities disagree with this view I consider that one cannot exclude the possibility that fewer men would have been arrested, and that the arrests might have taken place 1-2 days later during which period intensive surveillance and other evidence gathering could take place. I cannot exclude the possibility that in relation to one or more of the suspects no arrest would have taken place; or that the circumstances for extended detention might not have been demonstrated.

Read Lord Carlile’s report in full here.

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