Thursday, August 17, 2006

Telegraph | News | Prescott lets slip that some suspects won't face serious charges

Prescott lets slip that some suspects won't face serious charges
By Graeme Wilson and Philip Johnston
(Filed: 16/08/2006)

John Prescott let slip yesterday that some of the 24 people arrested last week over the alleged transatlantic terror plot will not face serious charges.

The Deputy Prime Minister made the admission during talks with Labour's Muslim MPs on how best to tackle Islamic extremism. During the 90-minute meeting, Mr Prescott briefed the MPs that the police only had enough evidence to bring serious charges against some suspects but not others.

His comments are likely to infuriate officers involved in the huge investigation into the alleged plans to detonate bombs on flights. They came as the police made a further arrest in the Thames Valley area under the Terrorism Act 2000. Concern had already been voiced about Government interference after the Treasury last week published the names of 19 suspects whose assets had been frozen after the arrests.

John Reid, the Home Secretary, was also accused of jeopardising a future trial by claiming that the police were confident that the "main players" were in custody.

Mr Prescott's comments came as the Muslim MPs told him that it could take a generation to tackle extremism.

They urged the Government to do more to win the "hearts and minds" of disaffected young British Muslims.

Khalid Mahmood, the MP for Birmingham Perry Barr, said Mr Prescott had briefed the MPs about the police investigation in the wake of last week's arrests. "The assessment was that there will be some people who would face reasonable charges, they have sufficient information to do that," said Mr Mahmood. "Some may face serious charges but some will not."

Neil Gerrard, the Labour MP for Walthamstow, who also attended yesterday's meeting, confirmed that Mr Prescott had briefed them about the investigation. "I would be surprised if everyone arrested was charged," he said. A huge operation is still under way in connection with the investigation. Anti-terrorism police officers have so far raided 46 residential and business premises in London, the West Midlands and Thames Valley.

Police executed two search warrants in Slough yesterday. Officers have also made an extensive search of King's Wood in High Wycombe, Bucks. Police will need to seek a court extension today to detain the suspects for a further period up to a maximum of 28 days, after which they must be charged or released.

A spokesman for Mr Prescott denied that he had discussed the investigation into the alleged terror plot.

"He did take the MPs through some general police procedures but he would not comment on an ongoing investigation," she said.

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