All of the men arrested earlier this month under the auspices of the Terrorism Act 2006 have been released without charge, but most have been handed over to the immigration authorities.
Twelve men were arrested on 8 April on suspicion of terrorist offences, 11 of them Pakistani nationals who had come to the UK on student visas.
Nine of the men, aged between 22 and 38, were released on 21 April by Greater Manchester Police, but were served with deportation orders and handed over to the UK Border Agency (UKBA). A tenth man was released and transferred the following morning.
An eleventh man had been transferred to the UKBA after three days in custody. The remaining man, who has also been released without charge, is a British national.
Of the men now in UKBA custody, a Home Office spokesman said: “We are seeking to remove these individuals on the grounds of national security.
“The Government’s highest priority is to protect public safety. Where a foreign national poses a threat to this country, we will seek to exclude or to deport where appropriate.
We will be working with the Pakistani authorities regarding the details of the return of these individuals.”
A lawyer acting for three of those held, including a student at Liverpool John Moores University, described the arrests as a “very serious breach of their human rights”. Mohammed Ayub, of Chambers Solicitors, Bradford, who is acting for Sultan Sher, Mohammed Rizwan Sharif and Mohammed Umer Farooq, vowed to fight their deportation “in the highest courts”.
He said the UKBA had issued deportation orders on the basis of the men’s alleged involvement in extremist activity. The standard of proof in the immigration courts is lower than that in the criminal courts, he added.
In a statement, he said: “I act for three young Pakistani men, all aged in their 20s, who were arrested on 8 April 2009 as part of Operation Pathway.
“After 13 days in custody, during which no evidence of any wrongdoing was disclosed, they have now been released without charge.
“Our clients were arrested in a blaze of publicity and speculation. Their release without charge and the wrong that has been done to them deserves to be accompanied by a similar amount of publicity.”
He added: “Our clients have no criminal history, they were here lawfully on student visas and all were pursuing their studies and working part-time. Our clients are neither extremists nor terrorists.”
Mr Ayub said the three men he represented were legitimate students and were entitled to complete their studies. He also called for an independent inquiry into Operation Pathway “so that lessons can be learnt as to how this investigation could have got it so terribly wrong”.
He told Times Higher Education: “When all this started, the Prime Minister said we were dealing with a terrorist plot, and stern warnings were issued to the Pakistani authorities.
“Now everyone has been released without charge. Politically it couldn’t look worse for the Government. Deporting these men is an attempt to save face.”
He also accused the security services and the police of leaking “misleading information” to the press about the suspects.