Britain Sets Ground Rules For Banning Foreign Extremists

By Alan Cowell LONDON Charles Clarke, the British home secretary, published a catalogue of terrorism-related offenses on Wednesday, setting the ground rules for Britain to ban or deport foreigners accused of fomenting hatred, violence and extremism. The list is directed primarily at firebrand Muslim clerics and scholars suspected by the government of inspiring violence among British Muslims, like those who carried out the London bombings in July. The announcement by Clarke, Britain’s most senior law enforcement official, followed a promise from the British prime minister, Tony Blair, earlier this month to take action, including closing mosques and barring clerics, to forestall future terrorist attacks. The measures announced Wednesday seemed slightly less sweeping than first promised by Blair. A Home Office statement said Clarke had decided not to include a catchall definition of unacceptable behavior as being “the expression of views that the government considers to be extreme and that conflict with the U.K.’s culture of tolerance.” In a statement, Clarke said the new regulations covered the expression of views which “foment, justify or glorify terrorist violence in furtherance of particular beliefs” or which “seek to provoke others to terrorist acts.” The list also banned actions to “foment other serious criminal activity or seek to provoke others to serious criminal acts” or to “foster hatred which might lead to inter-community violence” in Britain. The new regulations cover several means of expression “including writing, producing, publishing or distributing material; public speaking including preaching; running a Web site; or using a position of responsibility such as teacher, community or youth leader,” the statement said. It was not immediately known who was most likely to be affected by the measures. Clarke said a “database of individuals around the world who have demonstrated these unacceptable behaviors will be developed.” Since Blair threatened to expel foreign-born militants earlier this month, the government has rounded up 10 men it plans to deport, including Abu Qatada, a Jordanian citizen of Palestinian descent accused by European investigators of being a spiritual guide to Al Qaeda. Britain also barred Omar Bakri Mohammed, born in Syria, from returning to Britain from a visit to Lebanon. The government said it was negotiating with various nations, including Jordan, for guarantees that militants sent back to their own countries would not be tortured or abused. “Individuals who seek to create fear, distrust and division in order to stir up terrorist activity will not be tolerated by the government or by our communities,” Clarke said. By publishing the list, “I make it absolutely clear that these are unacceptable behaviors, and will be the grounds for deporting and excluding such individuals” from Britain. Some civil rights groups challenged the measures. The “announcement fails to answer the fundamental question; will the government’s deportation plans result in suspects being sent to countries with a known record of torture?,” said James Welch, the legal director of a civil rights group called Liberty. “What has always separated us from the terrorists is that we do not torture people or send them to be tortured – that is the standard we need to maintain.” But the regulations drew a broad welcome from the opposition Liberal Democrats because it included provisions for appeal. “It is good that the home secretary has seen sense on the deportation rules,” said Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on home affairs. “We broadly welcome the use of powers to deport people, as long as the individuals involved have a right to appeal and the case for deportation is reasonable.” Clarke said the measures would not limit free speech. “These powers are not intended to stifle free speech or legitimate debate about religions or other issues,” he said. “Britain is rightly proud of its openness and diversity and we must not allow those driven by extremism of any sort to destroy that tradition.”