Muslims call on police chief to resign over Forest Gate terror raid

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The Independent Online

Angry Muslims gathered at New Scotland Yard to criticise the Metropolitan Police chief, Sir Ian Blair, and protest against an anti-terror raid in which a man was wounded.

Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, who was shot during the dawn raid involving 250 officers, and his brother, Abul Koyair, 20, both from Forest Gate, east London, were arrested and held for a week before being released without charge after police found no trace of a chemical weapon at their home.

The rally was attended by 14 Islamic organisations as well as several human rights groups and 250 individuals, a reference to the number of police officers deployed on the raid. Afternoon prayers were conducted at the police headquarters under the gaze of 30 officers. Protesters brandished banners which called for "Justice for Muslims" and spoke of " rising Islamophobia", while some speakers called for the resignation of Sir Ian. Parallels were drawn between the "heavy-handed" raid based on "shoddy intelligence" and the shooting of the Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station in south London last July.

Sir Ian came under further pressure as more details leaked from the Independent Police Complaints Commission report into the killing of Mr Menezes, due to be published within the next fortnight. The News of the World claimed the report blamed a series of breakdowns in communications, and a five-hour delay in calling armed officers, for the chain of events which resulted in Mr Menezes's death. It was also claimed that senior officers were aware that an innocent man had been shot on the night of the killing, raising questions about why Sir Ian was not informed until the next morning. It was also claimed that Mr Menezes was high on cocaine when he was shot seven times.

Massoud Shadjareh of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, one of the organisers of the protest, spoke of the increasing "criminalisation of the community", highlighted by the Forest Gate raid.

"People are shot who are innocent," Mr Shadjareh said. " People are stopped and harassed on a daily basis who are innocent. There is a huge feeling of fear in the Muslim community and people are genuinely thinking they are going to be next. And what is really worrying is that the Prime Minister said he was 101 per cent behind the shooting of an innocent person. That gives the impression that the Muslim community does not have equal rights and are sacrificial lambs."

Many speakers, including the Muslim Council of Britain's secretary general, Muhammad Abdul Bari, sent messages of support to protesters who were " raising legitimate concerns in a peaceful manner".

The two brothers arrested in the raid sent a message regretting that they could not be at the rally due to the "physical and mental injuries" they had suffered. Their sister, Humeya Kalam, issued a statement on their behalf, to say the family had been through "hell".

Gareth Pierce, a human rights lawyer acting for the family, said they would be launching a legal action for damages against the police commissioner.

Sources close to the family at Forest Gate told of the extensive damage done to the raided property. Walls had been knocked, doors and floorboards taken out, plaster removed from walls and cupboard doors also removed by the police, who have pledged to do "restoration work" before the family can move back in.