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18 June 2006

British Police may let Muslims see terrorism intelligence

medium_20000000000.5.jpgguardian.co.uk)  The police are considering a proposal to let selected British Muslims examine the intelligence used to mount...

The police are considering a proposal to let selected British Muslims examine the intelligence used to mount anti-terrorism raids before they take place, the Guardian has learned.

The proposal will be considered as part of a review of the raid in Forest Gate, east London, a fortnight ago when 250 officers stormed a family house searching for a chemical weapon which was not found. One man was shot and police have apologised for the "hurt" caused by the raid which has further damaged strained relations with the local community. The review began this week and is expected to be completed before the end of the month.

While such a review after a controversial incident is standard, this one is unique because British Muslims are involved from the start.

A senior police source with knowledge of the issues involved said: "We are working on sharing more information with the community before, during and after events so they understand as much of the context as we can provide."

Other sources said the review would look at the gathering and assessment of intelligence, which is sparser than in other serious crime. The review will also look at what action police then take, and whether hundreds of police need to storm a private family house. Also on the table is more rapid compensation, whether police can do more to stop or counteract leaks "smearing" suspects.

Andy Hayman, the Met's assistant commissioner in charge of anti-terrorism, has already said lessons would be learned after the raid, which saw two brothers held for eight days and questioned, before being released without charge. The two young Muslims faced a welter of allegations in the media, which their supporters accused counter-terrorism officials of leaking and which are denied.

Any British Muslims shown intelligence would be security vetted but would not have a veto on the raid.

The review includes members of the Muslim Safety Forum, which aims to improve relations between police and British Muslim communities.

Azad Ali, its chairman, said fresh measures, such as British Muslims being able to advise the police on their intelligence and how to act on it before any raid, must be found. "Greater cooperation with the police is possible, but it needs the police to take creative steps to build trust," he said. "There are people keen to help the police, but episodes like Forest Gate and the way it was mishandled stoke up the mistrust."

Privately senior officers have said more raids will occur because of the threat of terrorism. But they face several dilemmas. Intelligence they have is sketchy and cannot be hardened up in the way it can in other serious crime. But every episode in which errors appear to be made, cost the police in lost confidence. Senior officers say they need the trust of British Muslims to gain an increased flow of information.

In another sign of the impact of the Forest Gate raid, the head of Labour's ethnic minority taskforce will today warn that the anti-terrorism battle will not work while Muslims feel picked on. Keith Vaz MP will tell a Labour meeting on diversity: "[Defeating terrorism] ... will not be achieved while anyone perceives they remain suspects simply because of their colour or creed."

Yesterday police received another reminder about how long the damage from a botched anti-terrorist operation can last. The family of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man shot dead last July after being mistaken for a terrorist, condemned delays which could see a report on the death not appearing until the autumn.

07:39 Posted in ENGLAND | Permalink | Comments (0) |  Facebook |

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