HOME AFFAIRS – PREVENTION OF TERRORISM – 21 February 2008

Dr Julian Lewis: I should like to add my congratulations to the Police and the Security Services on a brilliant operation to protect that brave Muslim soldier whose life was so despicably threatened. However, is not there a lesson to be drawn from that case? Until the matter went to court and the people involved found that they had no option but to plead guilty, there was widespread concern in the Muslim community that they had been wrongly arrested and that Muslims were being unfairly targeted. Does not the case show the importance of getting as many cases as possible into court and keeping as few people as possible under alternative arrangements such as control orders?

[The Minister for Security, Counter-Terrorism, Crime and Policing (Mr. Tony McNulty): I agree 100 per cent. That has been the Government's position throughout. I am currently carrying out a little analysis of the broad press coverage in the wake of Operation Gamble, which involved Khan among others, as my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick) said. If I feel so inclined, I may play back their words to some of the people to whom the hon. Member for New Forest, East (Dr. Lewis) refers. It is right and proper that due process takes place. However, there is a difference between those who freely assert their view of reality, largely from a position of ignorance, and the prosecution and police authorities who rightly do not do that to afford the defendants due process.]

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[David Winnick:  ... We want to remain entirely committed to the rule of law – let us compare the situation in the UK with what is happening in the United States – which is why I am pleased that Parvis Khan has been convicted, for the reasons that I stated earlier. The case is indeed monstrous and he pleaded guilty. The intention was to kidnap and behead a British Muslim soldier. Rightly, the court decided on a life sentence – a minimum of 14 years – and as the judge pointed out, Khan might not be released at all, unless the authorities feel that it is safe to do so.]

Dr Julian Lewis: I entirely endorse what the hon. Gentleman has just said. May I impose for a second longer on the House with the observations of Sir Robert Thompson, whom I quoted earlier? He also said that

“the firm policy of the government to bring all persons who have committed an actual offence to public trial”

is vital. He went on:

“This has the great advantage not only of showing that justice is being done but of spotlighting the brutality of terrorist crimes and the whole nature of the insurgent conspiracy.”

That is precisely what the trial of that terrible case has just done.