17 Feb 2009
Nappies, toys and children’s clothes are not weapons of mass destruction
Nappies, toys and children’s clothes are not weapons of mass destruction. The decision of the Lancashire police and the Home Secretary to arrest nine people on the M65 is a disgrace.
Six men from Blackburn and three from Burnley were handcuffed and held for six hours in the back of a van. They were taken to the anti-terrorism centre in Manchester and their vans, full of urgently needed aid for the people of Gaza, was impounded and searched. Five other people connected to the Burnley men had their passports confiscated at Ramsgate as they travelled with the convoy. All of these people are volunteers who have raised money and aid, bought vans and ambulances and devoted their time and effort to helping the people of Gaza. The Blackburn and Burnley groups are registered as volunteers and drivers with the North West Viva Palestina convoy and were on their way to meet the convoy. They travelled with their vans emblazoned with posters, flags and logos of the convoy.
These are political arrests, designed to intimidate and frighten people from supporting the aid convoy and the cause of the Palestinian people. The arrests are a scandalous attack on every person that has donated and raised support and solidarity with the people of Gaza. It is a vicious attempt to smear those that try to help the Palestinians while the government enforce an illegal blockade that starves the people of Gaza.
All of those arrested were Muslims, reflecting the appalling desire to criminalize Muslims. The Blackburn 6 were released without charge and their vans returned after the convoy left for Europe. The Lancashire police offered insincere apologies to the people of Blackburn while still refusing to return personal belongings, mobile phones and failing to guarantee safe passage through Europe. The Burnley 3 remain in custody. The Ramsgate 5 still await their passports.
We stand by these innocent men. We demand the immediate release of the Burnley 3 and the return of all belongings to the Blackburn, Ramsgate and Burnley men. We demand that the Lancashire and anti-terrorist police units publicly disclose the complete contents of all three vehicles impounded so that the public is satisfied that these men are innocent and the purpose of the convoy.
We believe this is a politically inspired attack that has nothing to do with terrorism. Just as Conservative front bench spokesman Damien Green was held under the Terrorism Act so are these men. They are as likely to be terrorists as he is. We demand a public inquiry into this dark affair.
North West organizer of the Viva Palestina convoy.