Shoot first, ask questions later?

Jim Jepps

The shooting in East London of a man during a dawn raid to arrest two brothers is looking more and more suspect.

More than 250 officers descended on the house which Abul Koyair and Mohammed Abdul Kahar shared with their mother, burst in and shot Kahar.

There are also reports that police entered the neighbouring house where they attacked the home owner, punching, kicking and coshing him despite the fact he was simply an incidental figure to their raid.

Kate Roxburgh, the lawyer acting for Kahar, said he was innocent. She described her client's account of the shooting, claiming that police failed to give a warning before opening fire. Ms Roxburgh said: "He was woken up about four in the morning by screams from downstairs, got out of bed in his pyjamas obviously unarmed, nothing in his hands and hurrying down the stairs.

"As he came toward a bend in the stairway, not knowing what was going on downstairs, the police turned the bend up towards him and shot him - and that was without any warning."

Ms Roxburgh added: "He wasn't asked to freeze, given any warning and didn't know the people in his house were police officers until after he was shot. He is lucky still to be alive."

Following Kahar's shooting sections of the way the press have passed on ridiculous smears like one brother shot the other are disturbingly similar to the attempts to smear Jean Charles de Menezes  in the aftermath of his shooting last year.

According to Reuters Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman said "It's very important that I emphasise that police did receive specific intelligence. We were left with no choice but to act upon that intelligence,"  Whilst it is reasonable to say that police should act upon intelligence it is also reasonable to say that they did have a choice about shooting an unarmed suspect. They did have a choice about attacking the men's neighbours.

The word 'intelligence' and 'chemical weapons' is not carte blanche for the police to do as they please, whether or not the suspect has committed a crime and time and again the police resist calls to make them more accountable to the public. As always the police are being secretive about how this man came to be shot.

Intelligence, as the government knows full well, is never perfect and it looks as if this intelligence was suspect [see the Guardian] and the possibility of another innocent man shot by police looms large.

It is of course legitimate for the police to search for and attempt to prevent terrorist attacks - but whilst the force remains unaccountable for its actions they are as likely to further alienate the Asian community and perpetrate a stream of injustices - like the shooting of unarmed men.

Speaking to Channel Four News one young Asian man at the demonstration outside the hospital where the shot man was being treated said:

"Going into someone's house and shooting them in front of their mum, that's not right is it? Just because they have got a beard doesn't mean to say you can shoot them."


June 2006

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