Back in September 2004 the Catalan regional police, keen to capture anti-terrorism responsibilities from their federal colleagues, carried out a spectacular raid in Barcelona in which a dozen Pakistanis were arrested and accused of planning al-Qaeda-type attacks on a couple of small towers and the municipal aquarium.

Evidence for this was provided by the suspects’ use of Western Union’s services, their habit of calling people in countries like Pakistan, and their possession of home video of Barcelona tourist attractions featuring closeups of themselves and a rather pleasant music soundtrack. The police must have thought they’d got lucky when it turned out one of the guys had 148g of heroin, and a couple of the others turned out later to have been involved in credit card fraud.

Interrogations proceeded slowly, hampered, said the police, by “a lack of translators of Pakistani and Urdu”, but the courts have finally passed judgement. And–well I never!–it turns out that more than half the “terrorists” were completely innocent and that–surprise, surprise!–there was no compelling evidence of a terrorist plot. I’ll bet a good lawyer could get “collaboration with a terrorist group” (aka Pakistani military intelligence) reduced to boring old money laundering.

We’ve seen in the past couple of days that officers from a particularly problematic station belonging to the same force seem to think it’s OK to strip and beat a young Russian woman on video. For reasons of prurience I doubt these Pakistanis will attract the same attention, but I wonder if both cases aren’t symptomatic of a broader mind-set.

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  1. Unfortunately, the video you linked to now seems to feature Madeleine McCann’s parents meeting a former defender of child abusers. Another cover up?!

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