SACC is supporting an emergency protest outside the Home Office in London today (4-5.30pm ). People of all communities will gather to express their deep concern at the erosion of civl liberties in this country as the government pursues its war against terrorism. The scapegoating of Muslims is clear for all to see with the ongoing detention of alleged terror suspects picked up in police raids over a week ago. The threat that this dangerous phase in politics poses to all our human rights was underlined by Wednesday's appeal court ruling giving the green light for the use of torture in order to obtain evidence in terrorism cases.
A wide range of organisations and individuals are supporting today's action including Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC), Stop Police Terror (SPT), Gareth Peirce, Tony Benn, Bruce Kent, Victoria Brittain, Tim Gopsill (NUJ), Muslim Public Affairs Committee (MPAC), The Muslim Parliament, Muslim Association of Britain (MAB), Islamic Human Rights Commission, Campaign Against Racism and Fascism (CARF), Stop the War Coalition, JustPeace, Scotland Against Criminalising Communities (SACC), Voices UK, Liberal Democrat Muslim Forum etc.
SACC: "The appeal court judges say that the detentions are up to Blunkett. Very well then, we demand that Blunkett releases the men immediately. If there is evidence against them, let the police prosecute them through the courts in the normal way."
Tony Benn: "The most dangerous thing is to turn political conflicts into a religious war. To try and pin the blame on what is going on, on the Muslim community, will create tensions."
Tony Benn will be speaking about the situation in Iraq at a public meeting in Edinburgh on Monday 16 August (7.30pm Lecture Theatre 3, David Hume Tower, George Square, Edinburgh University), organised by Edinburgh Stop The War Coalition. Terrorism scares have been used repeatedly by the British government to make the public receptive to the idea of military action in Iraq. The latest fighting in Najaf highlights the danger of religious war.
The latest series of politically motivated arrests in the UK war were carried out in the usual fanfare of publicity just over a week ago. One of the latest victims is 30-year-old Babar Ahmad, a university IT officer. He is now threatened with extradition to the US. Babar Ahmad was previously arrested in December 2003, and lated released without charge. He says that he was ill-treated and severely beaten - an official complaint is still pending. He has subsequently spoken out about his treatment at public meetings.
Babar's father, Ashfaq Ahmad, a retired civil servant, believes that his son is an innocent victim of the UK's war against terrorism.
Babar Ahmad's case comes against a backdrop of the erosion of civil liberties and increased surveillance of Muslim, refugee and minority communities in the UK under anti-terrorism laws.
Since 11 September 2001 there have been 562 arrests under the Terrorism Act 2000. Figures released by David Blunkett in March this year showed that only 6 of these people have been convicted and jailed for offences under the act. None of the convictions were for planning or carrying out an act of violence. Conviction figures released more recently appear to have been swelled by the inclusion of convictions for minor offence which have not resulted in a jail term (see note below).
Anti-terrorism laws and the mood of fear and suspicion generated are putting great strains on community relations and provoking real tensions between Muslims and the police.
The conviction rate quoted above is for the number of people "convicted and detained" according to a House of Commons written reply by David Blunkett to a question by Oona King (8 March 2004). The figure currently given by the Home Office for convictions since 11 September 2001 is 15. SACC's provisional interpretation of this is given above (we are not aware of any rush of significant convictions since March). We are currently seeking clarification.