Police granted extra time to quiz terror suspects

Police were last night granted the power to hold 23 suspects arrested in connection with the alleged plot to blow up several transatlantic planes in custody for another week.

Another suspect, who was arrested in the Thames Valley area on Tuesday night in connection with the anti-terrorist operation, was released without charge.

Under the provisions of the Terrorism Act 2006, police can hold suspects in custody for up to 28 days without charging them.

Yesterday Metropolitan police anti-terrorist officers put their case to a district judge at a closed court hearing, presenting evidence on each of the 23 cases.

Although they were granted permission to detain 21 people until August 23rd, and two until August 21st, it is likely that they seek further extensions.

The power to hold suspects for up to 28 days came into force less than a month ago – the previous pre-charge detention limit was 14 days – and was highly controversial.

Ministers have denied reports that they are considering plans to extend this period further to 90 days in the wake of last week’s alleged terror plot. A previous attempt to introduce a 90-day detention period was defeated in the Commons last autumn, with 49 Labour MPs rebelling.

Searches are continuing at about 20 properties across London, Buckinghamshire and Birmingham, where the suspects were arrested last week. Woodland sites in High Wycombe are also being searched.

Meanwhile, officials in Pakistan are continuing to question a number of people who are suspected to have been involved in the alleged plot, which sparked a major security alert and saw the UK threat level raised to its highest level, critical.

Among those being quizzed is British national Rashid Rauf, who reports suggest could be extradited to the UK. Yesterday home secretary John Reid said he “won’t confirm or deny” whether extradition attempts were being made.