Friday, June 09, 2006

Release of two men

The two men arrested last week in Forest Gate have been released without charge in the last few hours. This is very good news. Primarily because innocent men are now free but also because the police had the strength to own up to a mistake. This should increase Muslim confidance in the police after what appears to have been a very big and awful mistake.

No doubt people will call for culpable persons to accept responsibility here. I am not so concerned with the individuals concerned. My concerns centre on the system. Several serious questions have been raised by this raid (not for the first time) and checks need to be introduced and the quality of the game (to use the Prime Minister's metaphor) needs to be raised. These questions are:

i) who are the experts that distinguish between some young lads mouthing off before they watch a football match and a definite terrorist threat? What is their knowledge and experience in this area? Do they have a conflict of interest?

ii) what are the exact circumstances of the shooting? What needs to be changed in raid procedure to prevent another disaster?

iii) who controls spin exercises in the press? What recourse do innocent men have now (like these two) against the lies printed against them over the weekend?

iv) are early morning raids necessary? Is it possible to think up more intelligent ways of apprehending suspects?

v) who is holding this whole anti-terrorist operation to account?

The figures on raids speak for themselves. They do not help the cause. The problem with the raid that happened last Friday is that it severely damages trust especially in the core constituency that needs to be kept on side. From my experience, it is quite clear that Muslims are fully willing to co-operate with the police either on moral grounds or because they realise that it is in their best self-interest. However, such co-operation is predicated upon sound, trustworthy and robust anti-terrorist operations that lead to convictions on terrorism-related offences.