Terror raids escalate

On 20 September Home Secretary David Blunkett suddenly and inexplicably ordered the release of ‘D’, one of the 17 foreign nationals certified as terrorist suspects under the post-11 September 2001 Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (ATCSA). Twelve other men are still being indefinitely detained without trial in high security prisons, two have left the country ‘voluntarily’, one is out on bail with stringent conditions; another won a successful appeal against his detention.

The detainees are held on the basis of secret intelligence reports, revealed neither to them nor to their legal representatives. In August they unsuccessfully challenged their detention in a case in which the judgement plumbs new depths of disregard for human rights. The detainees claimed that testimony against them appeared to come from false confessions extracted under torture from detainees at the US prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. They contested that as such it should not be put to the Special Immigration Appeals Court, which is responsible for rubber-stamping their detention. The court ruled that information extracted under torture is admissible in a British court, even if British officials were present at the time, provided they did not do the actual torturing.

Between September 2001 and June 2004, 609 people were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 and the ATCSA. However these arrests and detentions have led to just 15 convictions to date. Contrary to the press hype just three of those convicted are Muslims. The majority of the remainder are white and either Irish or Scottish. They include three Republicans and four loyalists who would have been convicted under the pre-existing anti-Irish PTA.

Since 2001 there has been a huge across-the-board increase in stop-and-searches under anti-terrorist legislation, however the increase is sharpest for Asians amongst whom it has increased by 302% (from 744 in 2001-02 to 2,989 in 2002-03). Among black people it increased by 230% (from 529 to 1,745) and white people by 118% (from 6,629 to 14,429).

Arrests and raids continue. The usual pattern is one of massive publicity surrounding arrests and searches, including the releasing by the police of names, addresses, nationalities and other personal information. Suspects are then detained for up to 14 days, questioned and, in the majority of cases, either released without charge or handed over to ordinary police officers to be charged with petty criminal offences, or to the immigration service. Their families suffer intense media interest while they are detained, frequently followed by a combination of racial harassment and ostracisation.

On 3 August, 13 men were arrested on suspicion of terrorist related offences. Three were released without charge; one charged with a criminal offence. Eight have been charged with offences under the Terrorism Act. On 7 September four men were arrested in Southampton under the Terrorism Act. At the time of going to press there is no indication as to whether they have been charged or released.

Nicki Jameson

FRFI 181 October / November 2004


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