Socialist Worker

Anger at police over east London raid

by Joseph Choonara
Issue No. 2005

Ashfaq Ahmad, father of Babar Ahmad, addresses last Satuday’s demonstration outside Scotland Yard. Babar was arrested by anti-terror police in August 2004 and has been held in prison without charge ever since. The US wants to extradite him to face terrori

Ashfaq Ahmad, father of Babar Ahmad, addresses last Satuday’s demonstration outside Scotland Yard. Babar was arrested by anti-terror police in August 2004 and has been held in prison without charge ever since. The US wants to extradite him to face terrori


“We’re just a normal average family – we don’t know how this could happen. The only difference is I’m not white.”

That was the conclusion of Humeya Kalam, sister of Abul Koyair and Mohammed Abdul Kahar, who were arrested in a raid carried out by 250 police in Forest Gate, east London, two weeks ago.

Speaking of her ordeal, Humeya said, “I heard doors being smashed and windows being broken.

“I woke up, opened the door and saw someone dressed in black, gun pointing towards me. The police didn’t identify themselves. I thought they were armed burglers and I was going to die.

Abul and Mohammed, who was shot during the raid, were released without charge last week. Police have failed to find any of the “chemical weapons” they claimed might be inside the family’s house.

It has now emerged that the raid was sanctioned at the highest possible level. The cabinet office met with intelligence services and police before the raid.

Tony Blair and home secretary John Reid were both informed, and Blair rushed to offer “101 percent” support for the police, adding that other similar operations were likely.

“I am afraid we have to live with a greater degree of precaution on the part of our security services and our police,” the prime minister said.

But it is now clear that the raid was based on the flimsiest of evidence and that it was carried out using heavy handed methods aimed at terrorising Muslims living in Britain.

The collapse of the police’s case will increase pressure on Sir Ian Blair, who already faces condemnation over the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes last year.

Support

Respect, which has three councillors in the borough of Newham where the raid took place, has backed a demonstration set for Sunday of this week and supported by the family.

Abdurahman Jafar, a leading member of Respect in the area, told Socialist Worker, “We want the demonstration to reflect the diversity of the area. The message will be one of unity. We are saying, ‘Do not try to divide our community and don’t allow this to breed Islamophobia.’

“Right from the day of the raid there was a huge feeling that these people were innocent. We have seen hundreds of arrests under the anti-terrorism legislation in recent years – usually of Muslims.

“They are detained to great fanfare in the media. But when they are released without charge, there is a silence in which you could hear a pin drop.”

The tactics used by the police are simply alienating Muslims. “If you feel you are being unfairly treated, it’s not the best thing for persuading people to come forward with information,” said Abdurahman.

It has emerged that the intelligence that led to the police raid in the Forest Gate area of Newham, was based on a single source. This use of single source evidence was attacked by Aamer Anwar, a Scottish human rights lawyer who has defended many of those accused under New Labour’s anti-terror laws.

Aamer told Socialist Worker, “Around three years ago there was a whole series of raids talking about ‘ricin plots’ or ‘chemical weapons plots’. In most of these operations there was little or no intelligence.

“Information was provided by a single source. These tended to be asylum seekers or other vulnerable people who were told that if they provided information they would be looked on more favourably.”

Those who fail to provide information are treated extremely badly:

“One British national was kicked out of his job because police spoke to his employers and said he was being investigated under anti-terror laws.”

The tactics used by the police have simply further alienated Muslims. “I don’t know how many Muslims would cooperate with police,” said Aamer. “Those that do tend to find they have their doors kicked down and are dragged away as suspected terrorists.

“Of course they are released a few days later without charges, but by then their names and careers have been destroyed.

“Those who carry through these tactics are the same people who for years harrassed and terrorised the Irish community – which did nothing to stop the IRA.” The record of police and intelligence services since 9/11 has been terrible, “more Austin Powers than James Bond”, he added.

The home office admits that of 895 arrests under the Terrorism Act 2000 up to 30 September 2005, there were only 23 convictions.

“And many of those were for Loyalist terrorism,” said Aamer. “Of those that remain, they are mainly financial issues.”

Demonstration

A demonstration outside Scotland Yard last Saturday saw over 300 protesters demand the resignation of Ian Blair. Many of those who attended linked the injustice perpetrated in Forest Gate as part of a far wider injustice bred by George Bush and Tony Blair’s wars.

Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, told the protesters, “We should be clear what Islamophobia is about. If they go to war in Iraq and Afghanistan they have to paint Muslims as terrorists.

“We must continue to campaign to get our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan, and to prevent any attack on Iran.”

Demonstration and march to Forest Gate police station, Sunday 18 June. Assemble 12 noon, Plashet Park, Shrewsbury Road, London E7.


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