Socialist Worker

Old Trafford bomb that was never there

by Ameen Hadi, Respect supporter in the North West
Issue No. 1900

"MAN U Suicide Bomb Plot" screamed the Sun two weeks ago. "It was our tireless police and security service who foiled a terrorist plot to blow up" Manchester United's Old Trafford ground the following Saturday, ran the editorial.

Similar headlines and claims appeared in the other papers and were repeated by the BBC as it reported on the arrest of "ten terror suspects". You could search the Sun and almost every other paper in vain last week to find the news that the "ten terror suspects" had all been released without any terror charges against them at all.

And if you blinked, you'd have missed it on the BBC as well. Tony Blair has made this country a more likely target for terrorism. But the plain truth is there was never a threat to blow up Manchester United. And the ten people arrested were so clearly innocent that the police didn't even try to hold them for the two weeks they are allowed under Blunkett's terror laws.

I spoke to one of those arrested, who was clearly frightened and confused by what had happened. The take-away where he, along with two others who were also arrested, worked, had been literally taken apart and wrecked by the police. Other shopkeepers on the parade had lost a week's business due to the police cordon and had been told that under the new laws they had no right to compensation.

So why the arrests? Greater Manchester Police have some of the worst detection rates in the whole of Britain. Since the television programme The Secret Policeman they have continued to face allegations of racism. Just last month the most senior black woman police officer in Manchester announced she is taking the police to court for racial and sexual discrimination.

Six of the people detained have been rearrested under immigration laws. That is part of a growing pattern across Britain. Of over 600 people arrested under the terror laws, just seven have been charged with any terror offence. But many of those swept up face the threat of deportation.

The increasingly oppressive tactics are causing huge upset and anger. At mosques in Didsbury and Cheetham Hill police were outside taking down details of car registration plates.

Respect intends to work with those wrongfully arrested and offer our support in rebuilding their lives. Meanwhile Blunkett is raging over the release into house arrest of a man driven mad by his incarceration in Belmarsh Prison (Britain's Guantanamo Bay). And he is attacking a tribunal for releasing another who, as in Manchester, the police could not provide evidence against to detain. The battle to defend pensions has led to mass strikes in France and Europe.

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Sat 8 May 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1900
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