Inquiry into terror raids after no-one is charged

AN INDEPENDENT inquiry will be launched into the case of 12 men arrested over a suspected terrorist bomb plot and released without charge, it was announced last night.

Lord Carlile, who reviews terrorism legislation, said he had decided to look into the operation while memories were still fresh. His decision came as the government faced criticism after it emerged that a British Muslim was among 12 men released without charge.

The 41-year-old was held after a high-profile operation involving hundreds of anti-terrorist officers in the north-west of England. The Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, spoke of a "major terrorist plot" being investigated, amid reports of shopping centres, football grounds and nightclubs being targeted by Muslim extremists. But the suspects, held since 8 April, were all released without charge.

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Lord Carlile said: "I would be reviewing these events anyway, but because my annual review for 2009 won't be published for at least a year, I decided a snapshot review of this highly publicised case might be useful."

Opposition parties, human rights lawyers, Muslim groups and local community leaders accused the government of mistreating the suspects or botching the anti-terrorist operation.

Apart from the British Muslim, all the released men are Pakistani nationals and have been handed over to the immigration authorities to be deported, according to No10, on "national security" grounds.

The operation was brought forward after Bob Quick, the Met's former Assistant Commissioner and Britain's most senior anti-terrorist officer, inadvertently revealed secret plans of the raid to Downing Street press photographers on his way to brief the Prime Minister.

Mr Quick resigned over the issue, and police are adamant that his error did not compromise the investigation.

The Lord Mayor of Manchester, Afzal Khan, a former police officer, called for an independent investigation. He said:"What we cannot afford is for the police to keep getting it wrong; it saps the confidence of the public in the police."

The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police said, after consulting a judge and the Crown Prosecution Service, that his officers had to release the suspects as there was not enough evidence to charge them.

Shadow security minister Baroness Neville-Jones said: "It is very worrying that, following an investigation based on strong intelligence into what the Prime Minister described as a serious terrorist plot, the police have not been able to present sufficient evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service on which it could lay charges."

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Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights group Liberty, said: "National security deportation is an extremely shadowy process, and we need assurances from ministers that these powers will only be used for public safety and not for political signalling."