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03 February 2003

On Friday 24 January, a week prior to Prime Minister Belusconi's visit to Washington, Italian Police announced the arrest of 28 Pakistanis in Naples under terrrorism charges and that an 'Al-Qaida terror cell' had been uncovered. Those arrested were also said to be plotting to assassinate Britain's Defence Chief of Staff Admiral Sir Michael Boyce, due to visit the NATO base at nearby Bagnoli on 13 March. Italian Police claimed to have discovered explosives, an Urdu newspaper in which General Boyce's photo had been encircled in red, and literature containing the word 'jehad'. It is unclear why the Italian police decided to disclose the Boyce plot 19 days in advance, rather than monitoring the actions of the suspects and building up further incriminating evidence.

The Government of Pakistan has issued a strong denounciation of the arrests, stating that "the incident had been played up in the Italian media, prematurely and without proper investigation". The Italian Ambassador was called to the Foreign Affairs ministry to receive the protest, and was told that the detained Pakistanis "did not have any terrorist links. Their only motivation was to earn a livelihood in Italy. Four of them had valid stay permits issued in 1998 and the rest had the required permission to stay in Italy while their applications for work permits were being processed." Immediate consular access has also been requested.

It should also be noted that in July 2001, Italian Police in Genoa fabricated evidence against the G8 anti-globalisation demonstrators, including a 'simulated' stabbing of a police officer and the planting of explosives in a school being used as a dormitory.

Stop Press: On 12 February an Italian judge ordered the release of the 28, admitting there was not enough evidence that any of them were involved in an al-Qaida plot. The Pakistani men had spent two weeks in a Naples prison.,3604,894329,00.html

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