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Jean de Menezes killed by government hysteria

For immediate release

We share the nation's shock at the news that Jean Charles de Menezes - an innocent Brazilian man - has been brutally killed by police on London's Underground. Our thoughts are with his family, and we offer our support to them in the vigil they have been holding today.

Jack Straw says that the police must have "effective discretion." But the discretion they showed in hunting down and killing Mr Menezes was tragically ineffective. If the police are to act effectively, the government must free them from the hysterical pressure it has placed them under.

Our police are rarely able to cope well with that kind of pressure. Earlier this month, the overheated political pressures surrounding the G8 circus created a grotesque parody of proper police work. Instead of policing the demonstrations neutrally, police campaigned against the demonstrators and in defence of Tony Blair's political agenda. Unarmed demonstrators were brutally beaten by riot police in Edinburgh's Prince's Street, and at Gleneagles riot police were deployed like assault troops from Chinook helicopters in order to protect a cornfield. Fortunately, nobody was killed in all this needless mayhem. But it seems that the kind of political interference that put peaceful demonstrations in Scotland under siege has now brought tragedy to London.

Public statements by government ministers since the London bombings have clearly been calculated to deflect attention from the government's promotion of terrorism through its disastrous middle-east policies, and redirect it onto the Islamic faith and the Muslim community. The relentless, insidious association of Islam with terrorism by the media, by so-called "terrorism experts" and by government figures fosters mindless fear and racism. It's no surprise that this has resulted in a number of assaults on people perceived to be Muslim. The only surprise is that these assaults have been comparatively rare - a consolation for which the British people deserve a credit that few leaders and opinion-formers are entitled to share. And it's no surprise that the police - who are members of the public too - have been infected by the mood of panic. It's time for us all to insist on a restoration of common-sense and responsibility.

Writing in the Guardian (Saturday 23 July), Osama Saeed of the Muslim Association of Britain says:

"I've found it strange that many Muslim leaders have offered to look deep within our community now. It's a tacit admission of negligence that I simply do not accept. The prime minister has of course welcomed this attitude. Indeed he has led from the front, ratcheting up the rhetoric against Muslims, laying the responsibility solely on us. ...By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister absolves himself of responsibility."

The revelation that an innocent man - a non-Muslim as it happens - has been killed by people paid to protect us shows us where the Prime Minister's intemperate talk is likely to lead. We in Scotland Against Criminalising Communities - a campaign that unites people of all faiths and none - whole-heartedly welcome Mr Saeed's comments and we hope that other Muslim leaders will show the same courage.

Despite expressing regret for the death of Jean de Menezes, Metropolitan police chief Sir Ian Blair says that "somebody else could be shot." Mysteriously, he adds that "everything is done to make it right". He must understand that nothing can make this sort of killing right. It's his job to make sure that his officers don't assassinate members of the public. If he can't do it, he should resign.