Burnley 3 released

GALLOWAY CONDEMNS LANCASHIRE POLICE ACTION OVER GAZA AID CONVOY.
MP EXPRESSES GRAVE CONCERN OVER DAMAGE TO COMMUNITY RELATIONS

Viva palestine 19 February 2009

George Galloway MP, the leader of the 110 vehicle British aid convoy currently in Morroco and bound for Gaza, this afternoon spoke of his anger at the high profile Lancashire Constabulary police action which led to the arrest of nine innocent men who were bound to join the Viva Palestina convoy last Friday.

Six of the nine were released without charge some days ago and are now heading for Tunis in three vehicles laden with humanitarian supplies for the people of Gaza.

But three more were detained in custody for almost a week before being released without charge this afternoon.

George Galloway condemned the timing of the arrests, the arrests themselves and the deliberate efforts of the police to create a story in the press the purposes of which appears to have been to discredit the aid convoy to Gaza. Viva Palestina reports that there was a drop of 80% in donations following the broadcast of the arrests and the police allegations on the BBC on Saturday afternoon.

"Nine innocent people were prevented by the police from joining our convoy with vital aid to meet the humanitarian crisis in Gaza," said George Galloway this afternoon.

"The follow up action by the police, which has apparently included the strip-searching of an Imam and his wife in their own home in Blackburn, has gravely damaged their relations with the community whose trust they need to win.

"Anyone with any sense can see that it is in everyone's interest to encourage Britain's Muslim community to engage themselves in democratic politics. That is precisely what this convoy - and the huge political, and humanitarian effort throughout Britain's often alienated Muslim communities which lies behind it - is about.

"To arrest innocent men in such a provocative and hyped operation will achieve precisely the opposite of that engagement. The timing of the operation is seen locally as an attempt to smear and intimidate the Muslim community and I must say they seem to be right.

"The arrests were clearly deliberately timed for the eve of the departure of the convoy. Photographs of the high-profile snatch on the M65 were immediately fed to the press to maximise the newsworthiness of the smear that was being perpetrated on the convoy" said Galloway.

"I am writing to the Chief Constable of Lancashire to demand an explanation and will consult Viva Palestina's lawyers with a view to seeking compensation for the real financial and public relations damage we have suffered as a result. I will also be writing to the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to demand action against those who seem to have abused their power and authority as a police officers to produce this really damaging outcome."