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Birmingham Raids

Yvonne Ridley | 08.02.2007 22:36 | Repression | Terror War | Birmingham

Who has benefitted most from the outrageous media frenzy and lurid headlines of the last few days?

I am in America's bible belt at the moment on a lecture tour covering the US President's ill-conceived War on Terror and debating the Vietnam-style quagmires unfolding in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So what is the first thing I am asked about after flying into the snow-bound Carolinas? Birmingham, UK ... that hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism where nine men have been arrested for plotting to kidnap and decapitate a Muslim squaddie.

I'm sorry, but even from where I am standing over this side of the Atlantic something smells fishy.

Call me cynical but isn't our great leader Tony Blair against the ropes again fighting his own version of Watergate? Who has benefitted most from the outrageous media frenzy and lurid headlines of the last few days? Yep, the PM is in trouble again so let's wheel out some Muslims and inject a little bit more fear into the community by whipping up the Islamophobic media.

Cynical, am I? Well let's just re-focus on what's been going down in Downing Street.

We know Blair became the first serving prime minister to be interviewed by police during a criminal investigation in December - but we've only just discovered that the rozzers have been round again to re-interview him.

Meanwhile, his close buddy and adviser Lord Levy aka Lord Cashpoint, has denied any wrongdoing even though the "cash-for-honours" thunder cloud hanging above Blair continues to rumble furiously.

Downing Street finally admitted that the 45-minute interview took place at No 10 last week but denied misleading the media by concealing it from them - what a load of tosh.

Over the last seven days various journalists have asked Blair's official spokesman on five different occasions whether the PM had been questioned for a second time. The reply each time was: "Nothing has changed."

Well it's official - Downing Street has lied, and lied and lied. (So, nothing new there then, I hear some of you say).

No 10 insist that the Metropolitan Police warned Blair not to let anyone know he had been interviewed by them again for "operational reasons".

The reason for this cloak-and-dagger behaviour? Well according to my man in the Met, they did not want Lord Levy, Labour's chief fund-raiser, to know that they had questioned Blair again before they arrested him on Tuesday on suspicion of conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.

Please do not underestimate this latest development. It is brewing into a political scandal the likes of which we haven't seen in this country before although many of us can recall Watergate which brought down and disgraced US President Nixon.

I reckon Blair will now have to go and sooner rather than later because of concerns that the cash-for-honours affair has made it virtually impossible for him to continue focussed and on top of his duties.

Former labour leader Lord Kinnock of Bedwelty told BBC News 24's Straight Talk programme that he felt "grief" for Mr Blair, who "deserves better than the circumstances in which inevitably he will depart".

He added: "It's done damage to politics, and the political-democratic process. It's nourished everybody who had reservations and doubts... The damage to reputation, to trust - the intangible but critically essential element in any democratic process - the damage to that will take years and a great deal of action to try and repair."

Angus MacNeil, the Scottish National Party MP whose complaint to police sparked the investigation in March last year, said Mr Blair's second interview marked "another escalation in the police inquiry" and indicated that the Prime Minister was "in very deep trouble".

Well these are obviously desperate times, and such critical political dilemmas will only disappear from the headlines if something bigger and jucier comes along.

There's not much that could topple Blair's interview by the police from the front pages, but the arrest of nine Muslim men did the trick nicely.

The police happily obliged by leaking details of the alleged plot to the media ... all of this happened before a single charge was made.

Did Blair pray for divine intervention to get the media off his back ... or did he simply call Rupert Murdoch?

And don't you dare tell me I'm living in fantasyland. Remember the headlines to blow up Old Trafford, Manchester United's football ground? Or what about the plot to smear shopping trolleys in north London with Ricin?

The Ricin Plot was used and abused by Colin Powell to help persuade the UN to vote for a war in Iraq - and that untruth has cost 650,000 innocent Iraqi lives to date.

And oh how the lies just poured forth when a young, innocent Brazilian man was shot dead by killer cops in a London Underground Station.

Who will forget the nonsense which leaked out of the bungled, botched, notorious Forest Gate raid when another young, innocent man was shot ... mercifully he recovered but then had to face more twaddle and nonsense manufactured by the Met's Fantasy Division.

Actually, the Daily Mail quotes one police officer who blamed "Whitehall officials" for the briefing of sensitive details involving the Birmingham raid. He also points out to Mail readers that all the publicity comes at a convenient time for the government because of other embarrassing news stories.

So there you have it ... out of the mouth of one of Blair's coppers.

But I would like to know whatever happened to the presumption of innocence? Of course don't expect any action from Blair's other mate, the attorney general, who continuously fails to intervene or rap the media over outrageous reporting. He is the dude who is directly responsible to make sure contempt of court does not happen, hmm.

I wonder how he will react when he receives Lord Lester's letter expressing concern at the attorney general's lack of independence from the government.

When are Fleet Street's finest going to admit they have being used and abused by a government which has no respect for a free press, freedom of speech, thought or deed?

Lazy journalists who pay information to bent coppers to peddle Islamophobic hatred or allow themselves to be spoonfed by government lackeys are guilty of bringing our fine profession into disrepute.

None of the nine men arrested has been charged with anything so far let alone brought to trial but still the media is blatantly sitting as judge and jury. "Al-Qaida was behind plot to behead soldier," shrieked the Mail front page while the Times led with "How al-Qaida brought Baghdad to Birmingham".

The ubiquitous, anonymous senior security source is quoted everywhere as saying a plot by a "ruthless gang" has been uncovered to kidnap and behead a Muslim soldier or if they had not found one, a member of the public or anyone supposedly "collaborating" with the police or government.

Why doesn't the media remind us that these are the same plonkers who brought us Weapons of Mass Destruction, Ricin plots et al.

Just recently the Islamic Human Rights Commission brought out a damning report called: ‘The British Media and Muslim Representation: The Ideology of Demonisation.'

No wonder an overwhelming 86% of Muslims in the UK see the media to be Islamophobic (62%) or racist (16%).

Report co-author Arzu Merali recommends better media regulation coupled with better awareness about Muslims.

Why don't the journalists start by simply telling the truth .. and the truth as it stands, is that nine men have been arrested and held under the Terrorism Act following a series of dawn raids across Birmingham. No one has been charged to date.

Yvonne Ridley
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Hide the following 3 comments


09.02.2007 00:26

In your article you complain about the government's lack of respect for press freedom (fair enough) but then seem to be endorsing a call for better media regulation? Surely these two positions are utterly incomaptible?



09.02.2007 16:17

Ah anothe rgreat peice of Muslim 'woe is me' propagander from the woman who liked the burka so much she brought into the religion.

Re the Birmingham Raids
"None of the nine men arrested has been charged with anything so far"

Perhaps its you who should take you own advice and wait and see.

Despite your protestations about muslims being arested and not charged there are plenty who are charged and there are plenty of criminal acts carried out in the name of allah across the world, perhaps you got this world mixed up with the merry old land of oz. Do the police not arrest more people than they charge for murder, drink driving, theft. Are you then suggesting that the police should no longer arrest people for these offences?

And could you please let the police know when it is a good time for them to arrest suspected terrorists, a day when there is no polictical scandal for the establishment, I would bet there hasn't been too many of those lately, as for you suggestion that the Birmingham arrests are a ploy to divert attention from from the cash for honours crisis - its not working;


Many have been charged hey

09.02.2007 17:33

Of the 1,113 people arrested under the Terrorism Bill just 38 have been convicted – and only 12 of those are Muslim.

Many in the Muslim community feel that if they show any objection to recent events, such as the war in Iraq, then they run the risk of being branded terrorists, extremists or even having their homes raided.

The government has once again, in an attempt to take attention away from its failures in Iraq, used the Muslim community as a scapegoat.

We must all stand shoulder to shoulder with the Muslim community so that they feel confident to speak out against what is taking place in their communities.

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