The arrest of Omar Ahmet

Stuart Weir
21 July 2008

Stuart Weir (Cambridge, Democratic Audit): Just imagine being ready to drive off to work when an unmarked white van pulls up, armed police pour out and while one policeman smashes a side window of your car, the others drag you and push you to the ground a hand-gun pressed against the back of your head - five days after armed police have shot dead the innocent Jean Charles de Menezes! (The Guardian has CCTV footage of the arrest here)

This was the terrifying ordeal that the entirely innocent Omar Ahmet had to go through having been identified as a possible terrorist suspect by a worker at the hotel where he had stayed the night. The worker had telephoned the Merseyside police after seeing a photo of the suspect in a newspaper and told them that he was "85 per cent" certain that Ahmet was the man. Ahmet is a fair-skinned man of Cypriot heritage; the wanted terrorist was a black Eritrean. He had lodged car rental documents and his credit card with his home address in Maidenhead with the hotel.

Not unreasonably Ahmet believed that the police should have checked him out before subjecting him to such an ordeal and complained to the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who have just concluded that the arrest was lawful and the police conduct "reasonable" on "The available evidence . . ." The judgement is marked restricted.

Is it just me, but I find the police conduct to be an entirely unreasonable consequence of the heightened atmosphere of fear over the "war on terror" that is stoked up just as much by the government and much of the police response as it is by the dangers of terrorism? I do not know how long it takes to set up the operation as it is described and how much was devoted to thorough investigation of his credentials and distinctly different skin colour (Ahmet was filmed on the hotel's CCTV footage which the police had viewed).

The case is all the more shocking as Ahmet decided to make it public after media coverage of armed police arresting a suspect at Bournemouth train station, who was also spreads-eagled on the ground at gun point. It is not just the police who have a case to answer. So does the IPCC.

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData