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Pak diplomat accuses Britain over arrests

world Updated: Apr 15, 2009 16:06 IST

AFP
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A senior Pakistan diplomat on Wednesday accused Britain of denying consular access to Pakistani students arrested over an alleged Al-Qaeda-driven terror plot.

Twelve men, including 11 Pakistanis -- 10 in Britain on student visas -- and a Briton, were arrested in raids across northwest England last Wednesday. One man has been released without charge.

The raids were carried out in daylight after Britain's top anti-terror police officer, assistant commissioner Bob Quick, was photographed carrying clearly legible details of the operation. He resigned over the blunder.

"We approached the British authorities that since they're citizens of Pakistan, their families are worried here, we would like to offer them consular service," Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan's High Commissioner to Britain, told AFP in Islamabad.

"They came back to us and they said that the home department's lawyer... talked to them and the boys have refused to take consular service.

"Our reply to this was that 'you better ask those boys to write to us that they don't want our consular service and then we'll stop, we'll tell their parents that they don't want their service,'" said Hasan.

"In case they don't do it and if we have to believe your word, then your lawyer should give it to us in writing. So they have not given that," he said.

Hasan told AFP: "Usually the British act very soberly. They leaked out this story in such a way that they were convicted even before trial."

He accused the British government of wanting to deport the students to cover up mistakes and said Britain had given Pakistan no evidence against them.

"If you give us evidence then we will help you," he said.

"So now they don't have any evidence, they are going to deport them. They have said 'we are going to deport them, what we would request you is when they arrive in Pakistan don't maltreat them,'" he said.

"I think somewhere it has got bungled and instead of regretting it, they are trying to cover it up," said Hasan.

"If they are innocent then they should tender an apology and they should not be punished for their appearances, for sporting beards and all that," he said.

Britain and Pakistan have traded accusations over fighting terror, with Prime Minister Gordon Brown calling for greater assistance from Pakistan in rooting out extremists.

Hasan has urged Britain to do more to tighten up its borders and visa regulations.