South East Wales

Cardiff meeting halted by anti-terror police 'was study class'

A Cardiff meeting halted by anti-terror police was a study class unrelated to terror, says a speaker at the event.

Officers raided Canton Community Hall on 19 January after complaints about the Muslims Against Crusades group.

But Abu Hajar, 29, of Grangetown, Cardiff, denied the meeting's organisers, Supporters Of Tawheed, were affiliated to the proscribed group.

The Welsh Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit has defended its actions as "entirely proportionate".

Its officers were called to the venue on Leckwith Road last Thursday night.

Police said the decision to attend was taken after a series of complaints had been raised about the activities of the Muslims Against Crusades group.

Concerns were raised by members of the local Muslim community, the unit said.

The operation was supported by Cardiff council, which owns the community centre.

Police said they were met with "hostility" despite trying to "peacefully engage with those present".

Following the raid Mohammed Abdin, 21, from Grangetown, appeared at Cardiff Magistrates' Court where he admitted a charge under section four of the Public Order Act 1986.

He will be sentenced at Cardiff Crown Court next month.

Mr Hajar told BBC Wales he was shocked at the police's intervention.

"These were not meetings, they were classes to study Islamic subjects," he said. "People come and study in our classes and go back and live ordinary lives. It was completely uncalled for.

"If there was criminal activity taking place they would have arrested people for that.

"There was no need to raid the place. Imagine if someone was suffering from a medical condition. They could have had a heart attack when 20 police officers rushed in."

'Positive contribution'

Mr Hajar said he challenged police to bring forward evidence if they believed the group was involved in terrorism.

"They said they believed people within our group were alleged members or affiliated with Muslims Against Crusades," he said.

"We are not affiliated in any way with other organisations."

On its website, the Supporters of Tawheed organisation says it believes "it is only a matter of time until Islam will prevail in the whole world and this is something that we believe in and are striving to see".

In a statement about the incident posted on the site, the group said it had run weekly classes for the past 15 months to teach "the rules and regulations related to good character and worship, as well as issues of how to make a positive contribution to society".

The statement said: "These classes were known to the police and openly advertised amongst the community since they began."

It added that police "barged in to the class" and "behaved in a hostile manner".

In response the Wales Extremism and Counter Terrorism Unit said it was satisfied its actions at the meeting "were entirely proportionate to ensure the safety of everyone involved and the wider public".

"In operations such as this, the police service always takes steps to demonstrate transparency in terms of its tactics as well as helping to secure the best evidence and this was certainly the case in this incident," said a spokesman.

Image caption Officers were called to the meeting at Canton Community Hall in Cardiff

"Regrettably, despite the police service's attempts to peacefully engage with those present, police officers were subject to hostility.

"It should be noted that one man arrested at the Canton Community Centre has already pleaded guilty to a public order offence and has been remanded in custody awaiting sentence.

Glorify terrorism

"With the help of Cardiff council, this action was taken as a result of the genuine concerns of Cardiff's Muslim communities and their response has been very supportive and positive."

Saleem Kidwai, secretary of the Muslim Council of Wales said his organisation was concerned about "any group or organisation which creates concern in the community, or disharmony".

"If the police have taken this step they must have concerns," he said.

Muslims Against Crusades was made a proscribed organisation in November last year by the home secretary under anti-terror legislation aimed at stopping activities that could promote or glorify terrorism.

Being a member of the group or promoting its activities is a criminal offence.

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