IHT : 2 London residents accused of inciting terrorism in Pakistan are held in the UK

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

2 London residents accused of inciting terrorism in Pakistan are held in the UK

The Associated Press | December 11, 2007

LONDON: Two men accused of inciting terrorism and murder in Pakistan and of having links with an international terrorist group that is banned in Britain were ordered held in custody here Tuesday.

Faiz Baluch, 25, and Hyrbyair Marri, 39 — both of London — were jointly charged under Britain's Terrorism Act on Monday with inciting another person "to commit an act of terrorism wholly or partly outside the U.K. which would, if committed in England and Wales, constitute murder."

Marri, a father of four, also faces a second charge of possessing "a weapon designed or adapted for the discharge of any noxious liquid, gas or other thing" contrary to the Firearms Act.

The men were arrested a week ago by counterterrorism police during raids at their homes. Both claim they are peaceful activists calling for the independence of Baluchistan, a troubled province of Pakistan.

The Foreign Office denied a report in The Guardian newspaper Tuesday that the arrests may be part of a secret deal between the British and Pakistani governments to swap prisoners.

After a 30-minute hearing Tuesday, District Judge Timothy Workman remanded Baluch, an Iranian student, and Marri, a Pakistani journalist, in custody until Dec. 21, when they will appear at the Old Bailey.

Prosecutor Mark Topping said Baluch and Marri are accused of links to the Baluchistan Liberation Army, an organization that is banned in Britain.

Topping said cash and large quantities of documents, DVDs and computer files also were seized during the police raids on their homes and offices.

Baluchistan is a large region in southwest Pakistan that borders Afghanistan and Iran. There have been many clashes there between rebel fighters and Pakistan government forces.

The court heard that Marri is a former elected member of the regional assembly in Baluchistan and comes from a prominent family there. Baluch claimed asylum in Britain in 2002.

Human rights activist Peter Tatchell, who attended the hearing, said he knew both men and that they are Baluchistan nationalists who have oppose persecution of the Baluch people.

Tatchell said in a statement that the evidence of terrorism against Baluch and Marri is "flimsy, circumstantial and flawed," and that Pakistan's government "is pressing Britain for the extradition of Baluch nationalists exiled in London. If these men are extradited, they will never get a fair trial and they could face a death sentence."

The Guardian has reported that Britain's Foreign Office has held secret talks with Pakistani officials about securing the extradition from Pakistan of Briton Rashid Rauf, 26, who is wanted in connection with an alleged plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners in the summer of 2006.

The paper said Pakistan has dropped charges against Rauf, allowing the British to seek his extradition, but demanded that he be swapped for people living in Britain who allegedly have been involved with Baluchistan's violence.

Britain's Foreign Office denied Tuesday that such talks have occurred.

"The claim that Baluch and Marri were arrested as part of a prisoner swap is completely incorrect," a spokeswoman said on condition of anonymity, in keeping with the ministry's regulations. "There's never been any question of reciprocity in extradition cases in general."