About 400 people attended an angry public meeting at a west London Mosque on Wednesday evening, to vent their frustration and anger at heavy handed police tactics and sensationalised media coverage that they say is fuelling ignorance and hatred of Muslims in Britain.
Earlier this week, Aljazeera.net exclusively revealed that one British Muslim who was arrested by police, as part of a wider anti-terrorism operation across the UK, was himself mistreated despite making no attempt to resist arrest.
The man who had not been named claimed that police taunted him by forcing him to prostrate and asking him, “where is your God now?”
The lawyer representing all four men, Mudasaar Arani, told Aljazeera.net on Wednesday that one of her clients, of Pakistani origin, also suffered a black eye and bruising to his wrist, back, elbow and shoulder and that photographic evidence would be made available.
“Special Branch are responsible for inflicting physical and racial abuse on my client. I am truly shocked and disgusted at the way that my clients have been treated.
“Another individual that I am representing was also severely beaten by police officers, who allowed his wife into the prison cell to visit him and then promptly handcuffed her for no reason”.
The four men, all from West London, were detained in Charing Cross police station, central London, for one week. All four have been released without charge.
In addition to the four arrests in the capital, four men and two women were detained in Cambridge and four near Birmingham in the West Midlands.
Since the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington, 529 people had been arrested under emergency terrorism legislation in the UK. Seventy-seven were charged and just 2 were convicted.
Solicitors and campaigners working with the detained men say they have received no apology and no compensation for their wrongful arrest.
‘It’s the government that needs to prove to us that as British citizens we are treated in a fair and just manner’
Adnan Siddiqi, campaigner
Adnan Siddiqi is a doctor and campaigner, working to raise the profile of British prisoners in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. He told Aljazeera.net that British Muslims were feeling under siege.
“This meeting shows the strength of feeling among British Muslims. We are here to tell the government and the media that it’s not us that needs to prove anything – we’re not on trial. It’s the government that needs to prove to us that as British citizens we are treated in a fair and just manner.
“It’s absolutely outrageous what the authorities are doing under the name of anti-terrorism legislation – innocent individuals are being terrorised themselves.”
The meeting heard from a number of prominent Muslim organisations, including the Islamic Human Rights Commission who urged Muslim men to educate themselves about their legal rights under anti-terror legislation.
The Terrorism Act 2000 outlaws groups considered to be terrorist in nature. To date, 25 international groups and 14 domestic organisations have been named.
British police officers training for
The act allows police wider stop and search powers, and enables the police to detain a suspect for at least 48 hours in contrast to the standard 24. Custody can continue for up to seven days on the authority of a magistrate.
Britain has been on its second highest security alert for weeks after intelligence officials said they had information an attack was planned, without specifying any target.
Prime Minister Tony Blair, speaking at his monthly news conference, played up the danger and stressed the very grave threat that Britons were under and urged vigilance.
“There’s no doubt there is a threat because these people are operating in most parts of world and they have no compunction about taking the lives of innocent people,” he said.