Six men who were arrested under the Terrorism Act 2000 on Friday, 17 September, were all released without charge late on Saturday night and early this morning.
Hearing the six men have been released without charge may come as something of a shock to readers of the Express who had been told on Saturday that the men were almost certainly guilty, having hatched a 'Muslim Plot to Kill Pope':
Every media outlet was reporting the arrests on Friday, but there was a very clear note of wariness in the coverage. The indication was that the police acted out of caution rather than any serious threat.
But the Express doesn't do subtlety - especially when there's a chance of accusing Muslims of something awful. Look at the first sentence:
Islamic terrorists disguised as street cleaners allegedly hatched an audacious plot to blow up the Pope.
As Sim-O points out, the Express is declaring these six men were definitely 'Islamic terrorists' but were only 'allegedly' plotting to kill the Pope.
But then the Express makes it sound as if there was definitely a plot as well:
The threatened attack was foiled at the 11th hour after police raided a cleaning depot in London as the suspects prepared to start their shift yesterday.
It was strange to see the Express' front page sub-head calling the men 'bogus street cleaners'. The paper was more convinced they were 'Islamic terrorists' than actual street cleaners.
Most of the rest of the quotes and information about the arrests that appears in the Express' article was repeated elsewhere. But one Express-only sentence stood out:
It is feared plotters with links to Al Qaeda planned “a double blow to the infidel” by assassinating the head of the Roman Catholic church and slaughtering hundreds of pilgrims and well-wishers.
As there was no plot, and no one else seemed to be reporting this claim, the suspicion is the Express used dramatic licence here. By putting 'double blow to the infidel' in quote marks, it makes it seem as if someone has actually said this. But they don't say who. Because no one did.
Sim-O points out another line that also only seemed to appear in the Express:
An investigation is also under way to determine if the foreign nationals had entered Britain legally and were entitled to work here.
The Express seems to be saying: even in the unlikely event they aren't found to be 'Islamic terrorists', there's sure to be something dodgy about their immigration status.
This was a quite disgraceful, scaremongering, hate-inciting front page from the Express. Will they give so much prominence to the fact they've all been released without charge? Of course not.
The question is what will the PCC do? As there are six men directly involved they will only consider a complaint from one of them. Although it would be understandable if they didn't want to remain in the public spotlight, let's hope they do complain.
But if they don't, the PCC should consider acting anyway.
The Express used its front page to smear six men as Islamic terrorists with links to Al-Qaeda. A front page correction, retraction and apology must follow.