A ROW has erupted between police and prosecutors over the failure to bring charges in the British courts against an al-Qaeda terrorist who plotted to blow up a Manchester shopping centre.
Pakistani-born Abid Naseer, 28, was convicted by a court in Brooklyn, New York, on Wednesday of being part of a transatlantic conspiracy, almost six years after he was arrested in Manchester in a major counter-terrorism operation.
Officers involved in the original investigation said they had all believed he should have been charged in the UK, but were overruled by the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), which decided there was insufficient evidence.
Greater Manchester police and crime commissioner Tony Lloyd said it was “deeply worrying” that Mr Nasser could still be walking the British streets if the Americans had not moved to extradite him.
He said he would be raising the case with Home Secretary Theresa May to ensure that “whatever went wrong here” could never happen again.
However, the CPS said it had “nowhere near” the evidence available to US authorities and complained that, contrary to normal practice, the police had not involved it in the case until after Mr Naseer was arrested.
He was originally detained in 2009 during the Operation Paveway raids carried out by counter-terrorism police, only to be released after the CPS decided there was insufficient evidence to prosecute and an attempt to deport him failed.
He was subsequently made the subject of a control order and then taken back into custody while the US authorities launched extradition proceedings.
Greater Manchester Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy said there had been a “robust debate” as to whether charges could be brought in the UK.
“We did absolutely think he should have been prosecuted here. We put evidence in front of the Crown Prosecution Service, but at the end of the day we have an independent system in this country and that is their decision,” he said.
“There was a robust debate at the time and we put in a lot of challenge.”
Mr Lloyd said the case was “deeply worrying” and that Mr Naseer’s conviction showed there was a “strong and compelling case” he was a dangerous terrorist.
“The reality is that, had the Americans not acted, a dangerous man who was intent on causing death and destruction here in Greater Manchester could potentially still be walking our streets,” he said.
“We should not have had to wait for the Americans to step in to extradite Abid Naseer. The public will want to know why he wasn’t brought to trial here.”
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