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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 December, 2003, 14:46 GMT
Terrorism cases spark outcry
The men with their lawyer
The men and their lawyer want a declaration of innocence
A group of former terror suspects have demanded answers from the authorities after charges against them were dropped.

Human Rights activists have also called on the UK Government to reconsider its policy on terrorism.

It follows the decision to drop legal action against nine Algerian men who were arrested in Scotland and England.

The Crown Office announced on Tuesday that it would be taking no further action against the men.

The Scottish Human Rights Centre said the Terrorism Act 2000 was flawed and suggested there may be discrimination against ethnic minorities.

The Algerian men were arrested in raids last December and were freed on bail in March.

This legislation allows persecution of ethnic minorities. The government is discriminating against them using this legislation
Rosemary McIlwhan
On Tuesday it was revealed that they would face no further action.

But four of the men arrested, Ghalem Belhadj, Salah Moullef, Hakim Ziem and Lasnan Lasnami, have complained that this still leaves the terrorism allegations hanging over them.

Mr Ziem, 32, said: "We cannot go back to our country to see our families, we cannot go to work because everyone knows our names, we cannot do anything, our life has been destroyed."

The men want an official declaration of their innocence after claiming they would face death squads if they return to Algeria.

They are also demanding answers regarding their detention, which they said had implications for other people arrested under terrorism laws since the World Trade Centre attacks.

We cannot do anything, our life has been destroyed
Hakim Ziem
Rosemary McIlwhan, director of the Scottish Human Rights Centre, said the legislation was fundamentally flawed and should not have been passed in the first place.

She said nine innocent men have suffered for a year and their cases should have been dealt with sooner.

Ms McIlwhan said: "They should make the investigation first and then arrest people, they shouldn't arrest people and then investigate.

"It is interesting to see that the arrest of these people was trumpeted and fanfared whereas when they were released it was very quiet, and now we have had the charges dropped with next to no comment at all.

"It raises the issue that the government are stirring up hysteria about terrorism that is not really there.

Muslim community

"This legislation allows persecution of ethnic minorities. The government is discriminating against them using this legislation."

But the deputy leader of the Liberal Democrats, Menzies Campbell, said it was very difficult to reach a decision on the case without knowing all the information.

He said the police had to move to stop the possibility of a crime being committed and it took time for the Crown Office to assess the evidence.

He said: "I certainly regret the fact that people have been detained over such a lengthy period and I think there is a question about the anxiety that will be felt among the Muslim community.

"But I don't think there is sufficient evidence available to anyone to make some of the judgements I have heard in the last 24 hours."

Lothian and Borders Police said a thorough investigation was carried out and a formal report on the evidence gathered was prepared.

A spokesman said the decision on whether the evidence justified a prosecution was a matter for the Crown Office.

The Crown Office said careful consideration by Crown Counsel of the investigation by Lothian and Borders Police and the Procurator Fiscal resulted in the decision not to pursue proceedings further.

BBC Scotland's Reevel Alderson
"The police investigation took almost a year"

Anti-terrorism action dropped
09 Dec 03  |  Scotland
Terrorism accused given bail
14 Mar 03  |  Scotland
Seven held on terrorism charges
24 Dec 02  |  Scotland

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