Friday, 3 August 2007

NOT just a tragic accident

If you squint hard enough, there is possibly a vague similarity between these two men. The one on the right is Osman Hussain, the bloke that the police had identified as a suspected terrorist, and the bloke on the left is, of course, Charles de Menezes, the bloke they actually shot.

To be fair, the CCTV operator who had been staking out the block of flats were both men lived did ask for verification of the identity from his superiors before they decided to follow the man on the left. There was a delay though because the officer in question had stepped out to take a piss. As a result the authorization was given anyway. And of course this led to a chain of events that culminated in the wrong man being shot dead when he was followed onto a crowded tube.

On the basis of this narrative, I would be willing to concede that the affair was a tragic accident. I would also be loathe to criticize the guys who actually pulled the trigger (albeit seven times); whether they were armed police, SAS , SRR or whoever else. Never having personally confronted someone who I had been told was a suicide bomber, I wouldn't presume to know what constitutes an acceptable level of force.

But none of that is really the issue.

The inquiry has made it clear that within minutes of killing Charles de Menezes the police realised that they had got the wrong bloke.

And then lied systematically about it.

• They said that he was dressed in bulky clothing (possibly concealing a bomb) - inappropriate for a hot July day.

• They said that he was running.

• They said that he vaulted the ticket barrier.

• They said that they identified themselves as armed police and that he ignored their warning.

All of which it now appears according to the inquiry, was total bollocks.

The correct outcome of this revelation should be very straight-forward. Every police officer who colluded with this deceit should be removed from their post and prosecuted . And the eye-witnesses who appeared on the TV news to confirm the police lies should be traced and prosecuted.

Quite simply nothing less is adequate in a democracy; if authority is entrusted with the power of life and death it must be subjected to the strictest scrutiny. After this scrutiny it might be accepted that operatives on the ground made an honest but tragic mistake. But a conspiracy to conceal the truth from the public can never be accepted.

If it is, we are taking a step towards a police-state (an over-used phrase but the only one appropriate).

And finally:

It is utterly unbelievable that Commissioner Ian Blair was not aware that his own organisation was lying. According to the inquiry within hours of the shooting there was gossip around Scotland Yard to this effect. A competent manager in touch with his organisation would have picked up on this gossip and investigated it; so if he didn't Ian Blair is at very least a pretty poor leader for the Metropolitan Police. One way or another he facilitated a calculated piece of arse-covering, and now is dishonourably trying to duck out of his responsibility.

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