Daily archives: May 18, 2010

First Islamophobic Terror Scare under the Coalition

We have the first fake terror scare since the election – and Theresa May has jumped in on the authoritarian side.

The BBC states that:

The alleged leader of an al-Qaeda plot to bomb targets in north-west England has won his appeal against deportation.

A special immigration court said Abid Naseer was an al-Qaeda operative – but could not be deported because he faced torture or death back home in Pakistan


Note the alleged. The truth is that there is no evidence to convict Abid Nasser of anything. What they have is intelligence reports from Pakistan, certainly obtained under torture, and a communications intercept in which Abid Naseer talked of a wedding. As Sky News has been explaining all evening, the security services believe “wedding” is a code for a bombing.

On May 24, 2007 I blogged this:

Finally, a thought on communications intercepts. The government remain deeply opposed to the use of these in court. I am in favour. If surveillance has been properly and legally carried out, it should be admissible. The truth of the matter is that the Government does not want revealed how weak its so-called intelligence often is.

I can give one example. According to the US intercept agency the NSA, Al-Qaida frequently use the word “Wedding” as code for a suicide bombing. I recall as Ambassador being deluged with intercepts of “suspicious” conversations like “We’re going to a wedding in Bokhara.” Of such flimsy stuff is most of the material. If they keep it from court scrutiny, they can persuade natural authoritarian brown-nosers like Michael White to publish that it is “Solid”.


What is happening now is precisely the same circumstance I blogged about then. An innocent man is branded a terrorist by the security services, with no evidence that can be put before a jury. The media all then repeat it to ramp up the fear factor.

You may recall that in the current case, Gordon Brown had stated this was “a very big terror plot”. But the students arrested had no bombs, no weapons and possessed nothing at all connecting them to terrorism. The police announced they had found “a potential component of a bomb”. It turned out that this was less than a quarter of a kilo of sugar in the kitchen.




What is a disgrace is the “Special Immigration Tribunal” which decided not to deport Abid Nasser, but to brand him a terrorist. These tribunals are an affront to every principle of justice. The security services presented evidence against Abid Nasser in secret. Meither Nasser nor his lawyer was allowed to see the evidence against him. It is on the basis of this secret evidence – to which Nasser had no opportunity to make a reply – that Mr Justice Mitting stated that he was satisfied Nasser was an al-Qaida operative.

Mr Justice Mitting is a complete disgrace to the British judiciary. That he should make such a pronouncement on a man who was not allowed to defend himself shows that he has no place on any bench.

The fact that no criminal prosecution has been brought against Nasser, because of insufficient evidence, underlines the fact that Mitting is a reactionary well suited to his role in a court with as much connection to justice as the Committee of Public Safety.

My good friend and old boss Sir Brian Barder by no means shares my liberal views. He supports, for example, the FCO line that it is right to accept intelligence gained from torture by friendly security services, if it helps combat terrorism. But Brian resigned as a judge from the special immigration tribunal precisely because he believed it was completely unacceptable that they heard evidence which the accused were not allowed to answer. The truth is that only extreme reactionaries like Mr Justice Mitting, people with no concern at all for natural justice, could consent to take part in ths farcical kangaroo court.

Theresa May, our new Home Secretary has been very happy to jump on the Islamophobic bandwagon. Lib Dems should point out that the real lesson of this case is the need to abolish the star chamber secret Special Immigration Appeal Courts, which should have no place in any democracy.

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Iran’s Uranium Storage Deal

Iran undoubtedly pulled off a diplomatic coup with its announcement yesterday of a deal with Brazil and Turkey to store its low grade uranium. It is very hard for even the most ardent warmonger to claim that Iran is enriching uranium to make nuclear weapons, when that same uranium is in storage in Turkey.


But perhaps the most significant fact yesterday is one that does not bode well for Iran in the long term. It is that plainly the Russians were caught on the hop and struggling for a response. Russia has been Iran’s most powerful diplomatic protector, but in recent months the Obama diplomatic offensive to win Russia over on Iran appeared to have made dramatic headway. That the Iranians had not kept the Russians informed on the Brazil Turkey deal was a mistake – and led to eventual remarks by Medvedev that were not welcoming, and appeared graduated to the US response. Iran cannot afford to lose Russian support in the long term.

Under this deal, Iran is swapping some of its low grade for 20% uranium, and putting the balance in storage. In effect the whole lot goes to Turkey. It is worth noting that, according to the IAEA, all of Iran’s uranium is verified and accounted for. None has gone AWOL. This deal would leave Iran with nothing to make a nuclear bomb with. It is also worth noting – a point the western media never cover – that Iran has a perfectly legitimate requirement for 20% uranium. It has a reactor donated by the United States which produces medical isotopes and which runs on 20% uranium.

I should stress that I have no time at all for the murderous group of theocratic nutters who constitute the Iranian regime. For their own warped reasons, it suits them to heighten international tension around speculation that they may wish to produce a nuclear weapon. They are anything but straightforward, and anyone who believes that the welfare of the Iranian people is the primary concern of Iran’s governing elite is quite wrong.

But there is no indication that Iran has the ability for years to produce a nuclear weapon, and this arrangement makes that ever more plain. If any nation has a genune concern that Iran is seeking to develop a nuclear weapon, this agreement to remove almost the entire stock of uranium from Iran can only be welcomed.

The failure to welcome this step by US and UK governments indicates that their actual agenda does not relate to Iran’s nuclear programme at all. And I still wait for a British minister to say something about Israel’s very real and very large stockpile of nuclear weapons.

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