A new presumption of guilt

'Terror' arrests in Manchester“We have heard from this government before that ‘we are dealing with a very big terrorist plot’ (Student visa link to raids as PM points finger at Pakistan, 10 April).

“There was the very big ‘ricin plot’ in 2002, with no ricin, plotted by a terrorist ringleader with no ring. (That was just before the ‘weapons of mass destruction’ intervention in Iraq, the WMD being linked by Tony Blair and Colin Powell to the ‘ricin plot’.) There was the plot to bomb Old Trafford in 2004, the evidence apparently being two ticket stubs for different parts of the ground, in the hands of fans of foreign origin.

“Then in February this year there were the high-profile arrests and detentions in the north-west under anti-terrorism laws of nine men on unspecified overseas intelligence linked to a supposed terrorist activities outside Britain. Some were arrested from a convoy taking medicines, computers, toys and such to Gaza – all were innocent. Just as then, on this current occasion no specific plot is identified (despite the wild and denied stories about the Birdcage nightclub and the Trafford Centre).”

“Anyone glancing at your article might suppose that a nasty group of terrorists had already been convicted on the basis of solid evidence. In fact, as I write this, no one has been charged, let alone convicted. It is therefore a matter of serious concern that the prime minister shows such contempt for fair legal process by talking of a ‘very big terrorist plot’.”

Letters in the Guardian, 11 April 2009