UK unveils anti-terrorism plans as suspects seized
By Madeline Chambers and Matthew Jones
LONDON (Reuters) – British police seized seven Algerians as
national security threats on Thursday, hours before the
government unveiled new plans to hold terrorism suspects
without charge for up to three months.
Britain said it would deport the men. A Home Office source
said the men were all former defendants, accused but never
convicted, of involvement in a 2002 plot to manufacture the
deadly ricin poison.
The arrests at dawn were the latest to follow four July 7
suicide bombings in London which killed 52 people and wounded
700 and prompted a government crackdown on Islamist militants.
Home Secretary (Interior Minister) Charles Clarke said they
would not be deported to any place they would face torture. But
human rights group Amnesty said the detainees must be allowed
to properly challenge the grounds for deportation.
One Algerian was convicted in the ricin case in April after
Britain’s biggest terrorism trial since September 11, 2001, but
four of his alleged accomplices were acquitted and criminal
cases against the other three were dropped.
The seven men will be deported because their presence in
Britain is “not conducive to the public good for reasons of
national security,” an Interior Ministry official said.
Since July’s deadly bombings on London’s underground and
bus network Prime Minister Tony Blair’s center-left government
has introduced a string of new measures to tackle terrorism.
Most controversial among the latest proposals is an
extension of the time police have to detain terrorism suspects
without charge to up to three months from two weeks.
Clarke said the volume of cases, the need to trawl through
electronic evidence and to work with overseas intelligence
agencies meant police needed more than 14 days to bring
“The facts are that the modern world of terrorism requires
a long time to ensure particular cases are looked at properly,”
Clarke said. “I’m saying let’s extend that 14 days. We are
working on the basis that up to three months is the right
Clarke, who has to balance national security with civil
rights concerns, outlined his plans in a letter to opposition
parties. He is trying to secure a cross-party consensus before
the plans go to parliament in October.
Civil rights campaigners say three months would be
draconian compared to other countries and could backfire.
“That in my view would be incredibly counterproductive to
the work of the police and security services if they are to
engage with the communities who may have intelligence,” said
Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights group Liberty.
The government has already had to back down from a policy
of detaining foreign suspects indefinitely without trial after
it was ruled illegal last year by Britain’s highest court.
The main opposition parties welcomed most of the proposals
but expressed concern about the pre-charge detention period.
The government also plans to outlaw the indirect incitement
of terrorism and to ban organizations which glorify terrorism.
Critics say such measures could pose definition problems.
Clarke also wants new offences covering bookshops selling
terrorist training guides and people attending terrorist
Despite resistance from security services, he is also
exploring ways to allow the use of phone-tap evidence in court,
bringing Britain in line with other European countries.