Scotland Yard was ordered by the Home Secretary yesterday to explain why the police used anti-terrorism laws to arrest protesters at an arms fair in London.
Several people demonstrating outside Europe's largest arms exhibition in Docklands were detained under new powers to crack down on suspected terrorists introduced after the 11 September attacks.
Civil rights activists claimed that officers made "illegal" use of provisions in the Terrorism Act to stop and search legitimate demonstrators. Liberty, the civil rights organisation, has begun legal action and is seeking a judicial review of the police's use of terrorism powers. David Blunkett demanded an explanation yesterday from the Metropolitan Police about this apparent abuse of power.
The row broke out as small groups of demonstrators confronted the police throughout the day and caused serious delays on the roads and rail around the arms fair at the ExCel centre in east London. At least 114 people have been arrested during the past two days. The Docklands Light Railway was closed for several hours after two protesters chained themselves to a train.