Britain's top Asian officer accuses Met chief of racism

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The Independent Online

Sir Ian Blair was facing a battle to survive as Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police last night after Britain's most senior Asian officer publicly accused him of racial discrimination.

Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur, the third most senior officer at Scotland Yard, said he would take the force to an employment tribunal in a case that would name Sir Ian and others. Mr Ghaffur claimed he was discriminated against "over a long period of time" and "victimised" by other Met commanders after his grievances were made public earlier this year.

His allegations of racial and religious discrimination will increase pressure on Sir Ian ahead of next month's inquest into the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes during a bungled anti-terror operation on the Tube. If the court rules that the innocent Brazilian was killed because of systemic failures within the Met, it would be widely seen as making Sir Ian's position untenable.

Yesterday, Mr Ghaffur, 53, made his first public comments about a row that has plunged the Met into its worst racism crisis since the Stephen Lawrence inquiry a decade ago. He pointed a finger of blame at Sir Ian and said he would present the tribunal with evidence gathered over eight years.

Mr Ghaffur, whose rift with Sir Ian emerged in June, said he blamed the commissioner for the decision to strip him of his role as security chief for the London 2012 Olympics. That job has now been passed to an official at the Home Office. Mr Ghaffur said: "My current case is essentially to do with my treatment at the highest levels of the Met, in particular the discrimination I have been subject to over a long period of time by the present Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair.

"It is to do with the continuation of that treatment into the very important job I was doing as co-ordinator of the security and safety of the 2012 Olympics. Finally, it is to do with the victimisation I have suffered since my grievances leaked to the media."

Flanked by lawyers, Mr Ghaffur said he was in "unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory" but denied he was bringing the claim for financial gain or out of disappointment at not being promoted. He is understood to be seeking damages and payment for lost earnings, as well as a personal apology from Sir Ian.

A father of twochildren, Mr Ghaffur won respect for his effort to overhaul the Yard's murder and serious crime unit. He names the Deputy Assistant Commissioner Richard Bryan and Len Duvall, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, in his claim. Mr Ghaffur alleges Mr Bryan subjected him to racist treatment by pretending not to understand was he was saying.

Last night, the Met rejected Mr Ghaffur's claims and issued a statement saying it did not believe a tribunal was necessary. The Deputy Commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, said: "I think it is long past the time that we shut up, stop making public statements about a private dispute and get on with the job we are being paid to do."