No 10 rejects ‘police state’ claim

Downing Street has rejected claims by one of the nine men arrested by counter-terrorism police in Birmingham last week that Britain is becoming a “police state for Muslims”.

Abu Bakr, one of two suspects released without charge by West Midlands police yesterday, said the government’s terror laws were disproportionately targeted at Muslims.

In an interview with BBC Two’s Newsnight, he also said he was “taken aback” at media reports of an alleged plot to behead a Muslim soldier.

The 27-year-old English teacher claimed had heard nothing of it during his seven days in custody, adding that he had only been questioned four times, for an hour at a time.

“It’s a police state for Muslims, it’s not a police state for everyone else, because these terror laws are designed specifically for Muslims,” Mr Bakr said.

“That’s quite an open fact because the people who have been arrested under terrorism laws, the groups for example that have been banned under the terrorism laws, the people that have been affected by terrorism legislation, have been Muslims.

“So we are feeling the brunt of it all. We are the ones that are being locked up, detained, and then told go back to our lives.”

However, Downing Street said it was “categorically wrong” to compare Britain with a police state, saying that in the latter, courts would not have the power to order suspects be released, and Mr Bakr would not be able to complain about the system to the press.

Yesterday West Midlands police said it was “normal” for them to release suspects without charge at this stage of the investigation, particularly in “large, complex criminal enquiries where a number of arrests have taken place”.

A spokesman said: “Our priority today remains the same as it was at the start of this investigation and that is to ensure that we balance the safety of the public against the rights of the men we have in custody.

“We will also continue to listen to our communities about the way we are running this operation. We welcome constructive feedback from all members of our community as this helps us to continually improve on the service we provide.”

Mr Bakr said his dawn arrest last Wednesday would affect him his whole life, saying: “I’m scared for myself and my family, because I’ve been picked up and told to go back home and everyone is assuming someone can pick up their life after such a major incident that occurs.”

Seven of the men arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 in Birmingham last week remain in custody. A court on Wednesday gave police another 72 hours to question them.