In a humiliating defeat for British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government, the House of Lords voted against the controversial anti-terror law, inflicting a series of blows on proposals to give the Home Secretary extensive powers over suspect terrorists. The Lords voted Monday, March 7, by 249 to 199 against the controversial bill, demanding judicial oversight of the extensive powers the government originally suggested be given to the Home Secretary, which ranges from electronic tagging to curfews and freedom of association, Reuters reported. “They have to be better than the awfulness of what is in this bill,” Helena Kennedy, a senior lawyer and peer in Blair’s Labour Party, said. The proposed law allows the government to place so-called control orders on persons it deems “terrorism suspects” on mere suspicion, imposing measures such as electronic tagging or even a form of indefinite house arrest without trial. If approved, the law would give the government powers unprecedented in peacetime to curtail the activities of both British citizens and foreign nationals’ suspects. It would replace an earlier law allowing “foreign terror suspects” to be jailed without trial, which Britain’s highest court of appeal struck down late last year after ruling it contravened human rights obligations. Adamant to pass the laws as they stand, Blair had rejected Conservative proposals to put a time limit on the measures, which sparked fears it would erode the country’s long-established human rights by targeting people on “mere suspicions”. “Reasonable Grounds” Giving the controversial bill the thumbs-down, the British Lords demanded a higher standard of proof before any restriction of movement could be imposed. In this regard, two amendments of the bill were pressed for by two members of the Liberal Democrats Party, according to the BBC News Online. One raises the standard of proof for making a control order from “reasonable grounds” for suspicion to a requirement that a judge must be satisfied on the “balance of probabilities” such an order is justified. Another introduces a requirement for the director of public prosecutions to deliver a statement to the court saying there was not reasonable prospect of a successful prosecution before an order was made. “Sunset Clause” “The speed with which this legislation is going through this House and has already gone through the Commons, I believe, is evidence enough that we need such a clause on the face of the bill,” said Lord Kingsland, the Shadow Lord Chancellor. He stressed that the opposition to the controversial legislation would also try Tuesday to introduce what he termed a “sunset clause”, which would see the bill lapse on November 30. Home Office minister Baroness Scotland, however, said the “sunset clause” would not be an appropriate step. “This Bill Should Not Be Seen As A Very Short Stopgap.” The Government’s failure to see off the opposition to the bill may force ministers to consider further concessions or risk losing its entire anti-terror bill. Scotland revealed Sunday that if the anti-terror proposals are rejected by the Lords, Blair plans to use the so-called Parliament Act to force them on to the statute book. It added that invoking the Parliament Act over house arrest plans would “expose ministers to renewed controversy at a time when they are desperately trying to rally opposition parties and their own MPs behind them”. Muslims in Britain are complaining that they are maltreated by police under the Terrorism Act for no apparent reason other than being Muslim, citing the routine stop-and-search operations. Senior British parliamentarians admitted last August that anti-terrorism laws are being used “disproportionately” against the Muslim minority.
By Rosie Cowan, Steven Morris and Richard Norton-Taylor A British would-be suicide bomber yesterday admitted plotting to blow up a packed passenger plane in midair with an explosive device hidden in his shoe. Saajid Badat, 25, agreed to board and destroy an American-bound flight from Europe, three months after the 9/11 hijackers killed thousands in New York and Washington. But four days after he was given the deadly device in December 2001, he had a change of heart and backed out of the mission. However, he kept the bomb and police discovered its components, plastic explosive, a fuse and a crucial piece of evidence – detonating cord matching that found on convicted shoe bomber Richard Reid – when they raided Badat’s family home in Gloucester almost two years later, in November 2003. Traces of explosive were also found in his locker at the Blackburn mosque where he studied. Badat’s conviction marks the first admission of guilt by a British terrorist plotting an al-Qaida-style suicide atrocity. He originally denied the charges and was due to stand trial. But in a surprise change of plea at the Old Bailey yesterday, he admitted conspiring with Reid, who was jailed for trying to bomb a Paris to Miami flight in December 2001, and Nizar Trabelsi, who is in prison in Belgium for trying to bomb a Nato air base there. He will be sentenced on March 18. Scotland Yard said Badat had little choice but to plead guilty given the overwhelming evidence against him, the result of a three-year inquiry spanning 15 countries, and intensive surveillance by MI5 and anti-terrorist officers. Peter Clarke, Metropolitan police deputy assistant commissioner and head of the Met’s anti-terrorist branch, said: “This is a very important conviction, the culmination of a painstaking investigation lasting three years. It is a tremendous example of cooperation between international agencies and those in the UK. “Today’s conviction demonstrates the reality of the threat we are facing. Badat had agreed to blow up a passenger aircraft from Europe to the United States and was prepared to kill himself and hundreds of innocent people.” Intelligence officials and po lice chiefs are also concerned at how such a respectable young man was motivated to contemplate such a ruthless attack that they have asked the cabinet secretary, Andrew Turnbull, to examine how terrorists attract middle-class British Muslims. “We must ask how a young British man was transformed from an intelligent, articulate person who was well respected, into a person who has pleaded guilty to one of the most serious crimes you can think of,” said Mr Clarke. But Badat’s shy, softly spoken demeanour hid a dark secret. Detectives and intelligence sources believe Badat and Reid, a criminal from a broken home, met in terror training camps in Afghanistan, where Badat spent two years, significantly longer than most European-based operatives. It was there, anti-terrorist sources say, that Badat “underwent some form of radicalisation”. Reid and Badat no doubt bonded over common experiences and both were provided with almost identical bombs, destined to cause mayhem. In the end, Badat was not prepared to commit suicide, a reluctance intelligence agencies have discerned among other suspected terrorists they have monitored. The security services made the link between the three men when they established that Badat had used Belgian phone cards, found on Reid at the time of his arrest, to contact Trabelsi. Richard Horwell, prosecuting, said Badat had undergone terror training in camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where he was given the bomb. He came back to the UK on December 10 2001. But four days later he sent an email “indicating he might withdraw” and he did not take the flight he had booked from Manchester to Amsterdam, from where he intended to fly on to the US with the bomb. Mr Horwell said Badat confessed on his way to the police station after his arrest. Bearded and wearing a grey sweater, the defendant spoke only to confirm his name and plead guilty during yesterday’s 15-minute hearing. In Gloucester, family and friends were in shock. His parents, Mohammed and Zubeida, moved to the city from Malawi around 30 years ago. Mr Badat worked in an ice-cream factory in Gloucester before he retired through ill health. Badat, one of four children, attended St James Church of England primary school, a minute’s walk from the family home. He attended the boys’ grammar school, the Crypt, where he gained 10 O-levels and four A-levels, in physics, chemistry, biology and general studies, before going to university. David Lamper, the Crypt’s headmaster, said: “He was a popular and diligent pupil.” After university he travelled abroad, ostensibly to study Islam. Friends said he visited Pakistan, India and the Middle East. During one of his returns to the UK he enrolled to study at an Islamic college in Blackburn. He met a young woman in Lancashire and friends said they intended to marry. When he visited Gloucester he attended the two local mosques and was seen as a rising star. One man who knew Badat through the mosques said: “He was one of the most saintly men I had ever met. He was a scholar who had studied our religion so devoutly that he could quote much of the Koran’s teachings word for word. “He was a quiet, reserved, respectful and sober man – you could never have imagined him as a terrorist in a million years. He respected people of all faiths and colours.”
LONDON: Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that Britain would hold only “a handful” of suspects under new anti-terrorism house arrest laws that are unique in Europe and have outraged rights campaigners.But his home secretary said a first target could be four British Muslims freed overnight after returning home from the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay. Britain announced the new house arrest powers on Wednesday to replace the power to jail foreigners without trial, which the highest court, the Law Lords, ruled violated basic rights. But rights campaigners say the new measures – which would target Britons as well as foreigners – were even more draconian than the laws they would replace. Blair, in a television interview at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, sought to play down the likely impact. “It will not apply to anything other than a handful of people,” he said “I pay great attention to the civil liberties of the country,” he added. “But on the other hand, there is a new form of global terrorism in our country, in every other European country and most countries around the world. They will cause death and destruction on an unlimited scale.” The new measures would still require Britain to declare an emergency and suspend parts of the European Convention on Human Rights, said Ian MacDonald, a lawyer who quit in protest from a panel appointed by the government to protect detainees. “That raises the question of how long is an emergency,” he added. “Why is it that no other country which faces the same threat has done the same thing?” Natalie Garcia, lawyer for two of the 11 foreigners jailed under the old measures, said the new laws were no improvement. “It’s still total loss of liberty, and total loss of liberty without due process is exactly what the Law Lords ruled is wrong,” she said. “It used to be foreigners. It can be absolutely anyone now.” Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who announced the new powers, said the targets could include the four freed Guantanamo men. “The individuals from Guantanamo are British nationals, so there isn’t any power to do anything but what we’ve done (release them),” he told BBC radio. “That’s precisely the reason why I made the announcement yesterday that we need to have a regime to deal with UK nationals as well.” The four were the last of nine Britons who returned from Guantanamo Bay after years in US custody without charge. The Guantanamo detainees are widely regarded in Britain as victims of American injustice, causing political harm to Blair for his firm support of US President George W Bush. The decision by police to treat them as suspects on their return also angered Britain’s large Muslim community.
A Tunisian being sought under an international arrest warrant is the leader of the Madrid train bomb suspects, says Spain’s High Court. Court papers say Sarhane ben Abdelmajid Fakhet is “the leader and co-ordinator” of people implicated in the attacks. He is one of six people named as bombing suspects on the international arrest warrant issued by the court. Meanwhile, security officials say they believe drug-trafficking was key to helping finance the 11 March attacks. Drugs link The arrest warrant says Mr Fakhet, alias El Tunecino (The Tunisian), began agitating for a jihad, or holy war, in Madrid from mid-2003, if not before. A Moroccan, Jamal Ahmidan, is also wanted as a suspected leader of the group. The four others, Moroccans Said Berraj, Agdennabi Kounjaa and brothers Mohammed and Rachid Oulad Akcha, are wanted after supposedly being identified by police as part of the group who placed the rucksack bombs in the trains. Judge Juan del Olmo, in charge of investigating the attacks, says all are wanted for murder and belonging to a terrorist group. He also says the bombs were prepared in a house in a semi-rural area outside Madrid, which was rented by one of the suspects. Thirteen rucksack bombs were left on four packed commuter trains the morning of the 11 March resulting in the death of 191 people and leaving at least 1,800 injured. Interior Minister Angel Acebes has named the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group as the main focus of investigation, but he insisted that other “terrorist” organisations had not been ruled out. The BBC’s Katya Adler in Madrid says Spanish security officials now say they believe drug-trafficking played a significant role not only in financing the bombings but also in establishing relationships between key protagonists. Family Media reports say Jamal Ahmidan, who has alleged links to al-Qaeda, was orginally recruited by Muslim radicals while serving a prison sentence in Morocco for drug-trafficking. He is accused of driving a stash of hashish to northern Spain at the end of February to exchange it for 240 pounds of explosives stolen from a mine there. Spaniard Jose Emilio Suarez Trashorras, now in custody, is accused of supplying the explosives. He also faces multiple counts of murder, as well as attempted murder, robbery and terrorism charges. Spanish police have 19 people in custody, including 11 Moroccans or Moroccan-born Spaniards, two Indians, two Spaniards and three Syrians. Fourteen of the suspects have been provisionally charged with mass murder or collaborating with or belonging to a terrorist group. The Oulad Akcha brothers on the arrest warrant are reported to be related to the only woman charged in the case, Naima Oulad Akcha. Some of the other men have the same surnames as other suspects in custody or who have been questioned by investigators.
Magdi Allam The arrest of four Muslims in Cremona accused of preparing a terrorist attack in Milan’s underground and against the Duomo di Milano.
Heavy handed anti-terrorist policing is driving British Muslims into the hands of al-Qa’ida and other Islamic extremist groups, David Blunkett and Scotland Yard have been warned. The Muslim community is increasingly alarmed at the number of people being arrested for suspected anti-terrorist offences, but released without charge. Extremists, such as the supporters of al-Qa’ida and al-Muhajiroun, a radical Muslim organisation, are attempting to exploit this unrest and recruit new members in Britain, the Home Secretary and the police have been told. The warning by Muslim leaders follows the arrest of 537 people by the Metropolitan Police under anti-terrorist legislation since the 11 September attacks in 2001. Of those detained, 94 have been charged with terrorist-related offences and six have been convicted.