By Madeline Chambers and Matthew Jones British police said they would deport seven Algerians seized as national security threats, hours before the Government unveiled plans to hold terror suspects without charge for up to three months. A Home Office source said the men were former defendants, accused but never convicted, of involvement in a 2002 plot to manufacture the deadly ricin poison. The dawn arrests 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 Charles Clarke said they would not be deported to any place they would face torture. Human rights group Amnesty said the detainees must be allowed to challenge the deportation. One Algerian was convicted of charges relating to the ricin case in April but four others were acquitted and cases against the other three were dropped. The seven will be deported because their presence in Britain is “not conducive to the public good for reasons of national security,” a Home Office official said. 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 14 days. “I want to do my best to protect the country and here are the police saying we need to extend the period of detention, well okay as long as there is judicial oversight,” Prime Minister Tony Blair said at a United Nations summit in New York. Police have long argued they need more than 14 days to cope with the volume of cases, the need to trawl through electronic evidence and work with overseas agencies. Clarke, however, raised concerns about his own plans in a letter to opposition parties, saying that there was “room for debate as to whether we should go as far as three months”. The Government is expected to push the plans into law this year. “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 14 days. We are working on the basis that up to three months is the right time.” But civil rights campaigners say three months would be draconian. “These measures, coupled with faulty British intelligence, will increase the witchhunt against Muslims,” said Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission. 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. Rights group Liberty said the plans would affect attempts to engage with ethnic communities. The Government also plans to outlaw the indirect incitement of terrorism and to ban organisations which glorify terrorism. Critics Say Such Measures Could Pose Definition Problems Despite resistance from security services, ways are being explored to allow the use of phone-tap evidence in court, bringing Britain in line with other European countries. The announcement came with the disclosure that scientists withheld vital evidence in the “ricin plot’ case that was used by Blair to justify the war with Iraq. Tests demonstrating that was no ricin found at a London flat linked to the case were not disclosed to police and Government ministers. The “plot” was cited by Blair and former US Secretary of State Colin Powell in the weeks leading up to the decision to go to war with Iraq. A breakdown in communication was blamed for the failure to pass the information on to Government. On February 3, 2000, Blair told MPs in the House of Commons that the “ricin terror plot” was “powerful evidence of the continuing terrorist threat”. Two days later Powell used the case to warn about the spread of terrorism to western countries. Tough Security Proposals – The ability to hold suspects for three months without charge. – A new offence of “glorifying” terrorism attacks in Britain and abroad, which will carry a five-year jail sentence. – It will not be an offence to glorify any events which happened more than 20 years ago, except those specified. The draft bill also creates an offence relating to the “dissemination of terrorist publications”, which is seen as a crackdown on Islamist literature.
PARIS (Reuters) – A top European human rights watchdog said on Wednesday Britain’s anti-terrorism laws breached European standards and could force London to opt out of parts of the European Convention on Human Rights. Despite improvements, Britain still tended to see human rights as an obstacle to the criminal justice system, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights Alvaro Gil-Robles said in a report. He welcomed a decision by Britain’s top court which forced Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government to drop a measure allowing detention of foreign terrorist suspects without charge. But problems remained with the law that replaced it. The 2005 Prevention of Terrorism Act allows Britain’s Home Secretary (interior minister) to issue “control orders” against terrorism suspects, which restrict their freedom of movement, where they live and with whom they may communicate. “The Act acknowledges some … of these restrictions may be incompatible with Article 5 (of the European Convention on Human Rights) on the right to liberty, in which case the possibility of derogating from the UK’s obligations under this article is foreseen,” the report said. Control orders replaced the criminal justice system with a parallel system run by the executive. Special laws might be necessary to counter the risk of terrorist attack but judicial guarantees should always be applied, it added. Andrew Bell, a spokesman for the British government, said London welcomed the report and would “give careful consideration to the issues and recommendations.” In London, the minister responsible for the modernisation of the criminal justice system, Baroness Scotland, defended Britain’s far-reaching anti-terrorism laws. “Those control orders are proportionate,” she told Channel 4 television news. “What we are doing is limiting the ability of those individuals who’ve been identified as potentially causing a risk to our country… “I absolutely do not accept that we are in any way exaggerating the threat,” she said. “What are the alternatives? What is being suggested that we should put in place to keep our country safe?” Some British Muslims, who say they have borne the brunt of laws which give police extra powers to stop and search suspects, welcomed Gil-Robles’ report. The British Islamic Human Rights Commission commended it “for clearly shaming the UK as a nation which, rather than improving, is rapidly digressing from the most basic of human rights obligations”. “The British government … continues to oppress the minorities in Britain through a general policy of fear,” IHRC Chairman Massoud Shadjareh said. “Fear of terrorism, fear of asylum seekers, fear of Muslims and general fear of ‘the Other’.”