POLICE have agreed to consult a panel of Muslim leaders before mounting counter-terrorist raids or arrests. Members of the panel will offer their assessment of whether information police have on a suspect is too flimsy and will also consider the consequences on community relations of a raid.
Members will be security vetted and will have to promise not to reveal any intelligence they are shown. They will not have to sign the Official Secrets Act.
The first panel, expected to consist of four people, will be set up initially in London. Tomorrow representatives from police forces across England and Wales will decide whether to make the scheme national.
Muslim groups have welcomed the move, which is understood to be backed by Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner.
This week the Association of Chief Police Officers will discuss with MI5 and the Home Office whether to reveal to the panel intelligence information from the security service.
The idea came from the Metropolitan police and the Muslim Safety Forum (MSF), which works for better police-Muslim relations. It has been under discussion for two years and came to the top of the agenda after a police raid in Forest Gate, London, in June, in which a man was shot. Police were acting on a tip-off about a bomb. None was found.
Azad Ali, chairman of the MSF, said: "The major concern that came to us from Muslims was that the intelligence was flawed — the raid was on assumption and nothing else. This will allow independent scrutiny of intelligence."
The police and the Crown Prosecution Service have sometimes been criticised for being over-cautious about tackling Muslim extremism. Last week Abu Izzadeen, a radical cleric who has so far escaped prosecution despite seemingly inciting terrorism, gained entry to a closed meeting in east London and heckled John Reid, the home secretary.
It has now emerged that Izzadeen apparently urged Muslims to wage holy war in Britain in an internet video downloaded by several thousand users from websites that closed down two months ago. The sites were linked to the Saved Sect, of which Izzadeen was leader and which has now been banned and disbanded.
In the video he told his audience: "In the UK no fighting takes place yet, but don't be fooled, the time will come to you brothers . . . fighting is so close at hand."
He adds: "You prepare yourself now and when the hard time comes you are ready to defend yourself; you are ready to die for the sake of Allah."
David Corker, a partner in the London law firm Corker Binning, which has dealt with terrorism cases, said of the video: "There is enough material there for him to be considered for prosecution."
Izzadeen, 34, did not respond to requests for comment this weekend.