BRITAIN'S Muslims are feeling increasingly persecuted following the arrest of 12 men in anti-terror-raids, Islamic leaders warned last night.

Police are continuing to question the men - who are all thought to be of Asian origin - at London's Paddington Green Police Station.

The men, aged between 19 and 32, were seized in a series of raids across the country on Tuesday on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism.

Armed officers swooped in north-west London, Bushey, in Hertfordshire, Luton, Bedfordshire, and Blackburn, Lancashire.

But last night the Islamic community sounded a warning about the impact such raids were having on British Muslims.

Inayet Bunglawala, from the Muslim Council of Great Britain, said: "This is the latest in a series of high-profile raids since 9/11 where a large group of mainly young Muslim men are arrested amongst massive nationwide publicity.

"More than 500 people have been arrested and yet less than 100 have been charged.

"There is now a growing bitterness in the Muslim community. It seems the vast majority of these people are arrested amid very high publicity and yet when they are released it does not attract the same publicity.

"I think the police have a lot more to do in terms of working with the Muslim community and gaining their trust."

Massoud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said: "The Muslim community is extremely law abiding. There is a limit to how much they will be the target of Islamophobia."

Meanwhile, a law allowing foreign terror suspects to be jailed indefinitely without trial should be "replaced as a matter of urgency", a committee of parliamentarians said yesterday.

A report by the all-party Joint Committee on Human Rights increased the pressure on Home Secretary David Blunkett not to renew the emergency powers when they lapse in November 2006.

Condemning the emergency law's "corrosive effect" on human rights, the members said Mr Blunkett should instead make reforms which would allow more suspected terrorists to face trial.

One critical change would be allowing evidence gathered from phone taps and intercepted e-mails to be admissible in court, they said. The security services are thought to oppose such a move because of the dangers of exposing their surveillance capabilities and techniques.

But the committee of MPs and peers said: "We conclude that the case for relaxing the absolute ban on the use of intercept evidence is overwhelming.

"This over-protective attitude appears to be one of the most significant obstacles to using the criminal law against suspected terrorists."

The committee said it was not persuaded of the need to create a new terrorism offence which would make it illegal to be involved in "acts preparatory to terrorism".

Such a move is currently being considered by Mr Blunkett for possible inclusion in a new anti-terror Bill.

Police have until tonight to question the 12 arrested men before they must apply to magistrates for an extension to the detention period of up to two weeks.

The men were being questioned by officers from the Metropolitan Police's Anti-Terrorist Branch.

A 13th man, also detained on Tuesday in north London, has since been released with no further action.

Scotland Yard has refused to discuss whether the raids were linked to the seizure of computer files from al Qaida suspects captured in Pakistan.

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