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Birmingham 'terrorism' arrests
Police raids dividing community
THE RECENT arrest of nine 'terrorist' suspects in Birmingham is another high profile police swoop to have taken place in recent months. In common with the bungled raid in Forest Gate, east London, last year it seems that the police are much better at arresting people than gathering incriminating evidence. Over 1,000 people have been charged under various anti-terrorist laws but only a handful have been found guilty of 'terrorist-related' offences.
Clive Walder, Birmingham
Abu Bakr, one of those arrested in Birmingham and released without charge, reported that police never questioned him about any possible terrorist activities. He later complained: "It's a police state for Muslims".
Abu Bakr also claimed the swoop was aimed at diverting attention from the 'cash-for-honours' investigation overshadowing Blair's final months in office.
Of the nine arrested, two people have been released without charge and six have appeared in court charged under anti-terrorist laws.
When the arrests were first made the attitude of local Muslims was one of disbelief. There are now growing allegations from journalists and even the vice-chair of the West Midlands Police Federation that the investigation is being driven from Whitehall, possibly to try and neutralise recent criticism of the Home Office.
There is also the suspicion that these high-profile arrests are designed to increase public support for legislation to extend the police's powers to detain 'terror suspects' without charge from one month to three months, a measure favoured by Blair.
The bulk of the local population rightly oppose terrorist attacks such as those in London on 7 July 2005 and are co-operative towards the police. They understand that allegations of terrorism have to be investigated, but if they believe that some people are being fitted up to buttress Blair's crumbling reputation this will change.
The raids took place in sensitive areas of the city. One of them was in Kingstanding ward, the ward in which the far-right BNP gained much publicity in last year's council elections due to a wrongly declared result. The BNP will no doubt be using this raid to whip up anti-Muslim feeling in this predominantly white area. The racial fragmentation of Birmingham politics is a real possibility.
New Labour's 'war on terror' does little to combat terrorism but it is creating a climate of fear amongst the population which is designed to increase public support for more repressive legislation. Such laws will be increasingly used against labour movement activists, as well as Muslims and other minorities.
A former BNP candidate, Robert Cottage, pleaded guilty at Manchester Crown Court last week to possession of explosives in 'anticipation of a civil war'.
In The Socialist 15 February 2007:
Campaign for a New Workers Party
War and terrorism
Socialist Party feature
Bird flu outbreak
Socialist Party NHS campaign
Socialist Party news and analysis
International socialist news
Workplace news and analysis