BLACKBURN, England – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice heard passionate complaints Saturday from British Muslims about U.S. polices in Iraq, toward the Palestinians and at the U.S.-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Some of the complaints were voiced respectfully by Muslim leaders who met with Rice. Others were chanted, shouted and screamed by anti Iraq-war protesters, who were present almost everywhere the secretary went during what her team planned as a goodwill visit. Local commentary on Rice’s two-day outreach visit to northwest England has been harsh. Saturday morning’s Guardian newspaper carried a half-page cartoon showing Rice and her host, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, holding a banner that said: The Case for War. The banner was riddled with holes and the caption read, Four thousand holes in Blackburn, Lancashire, a wry reference to the words of the Beatles song A Day in the Life. Kam Kothia, one of the Muslim community leaders who met for an hour with Rice, said the group respectfully told her we want to see change in U.S. policies in the Muslim world. He said he told Rice that the Bush administration should engage, not isolate, the new Hamas government in the Palestinian areas, because it was democratically elected in a process Washington, D.C., backed. The anger at U.S. policies shows the hurdles Rice and her public diplomacy chief, Undersecretary of State Karen Hughes, face as they aggressively try to improve the U.S. image in the Muslim world. Their message is usually drowned out in a torrent of complaints about U.S. policies that affect Muslims. Asked what she’d learned from the visit, Rice said, I certainly think you hear a passion about a number of issues. She defended the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, where some terror suspects have been held for years without trial. She said the United States did not want to keep the prison open longer than necessary, but added: If the alternative is to release people back on the street so they can do harm again, that we’re not going to do.
Up to 2000 people from more than 50 Islamic organisations in Britain have demonstrated in London to condemn what they called heavy-handed procedures in the fight against global terrorism. “The basic message is that the Muslim community wants to voice its opposition to what it views as the oppression of the war on terror,” said Imran Wahid of Hizb ut-Tahrir, one of the groups behind the protest march. He said Muslims were angered by so-called control orders imposed by the British authorities on terrorism suspects, and by the US detention of terrorism suspects without trial at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. There were no incidents as the protesters – led by a banner reading United Against the Oppression of War on Terror – made their way to Paddington Green police station in west London, where terrorism suspects are questioned. “It is kind of symbolic because a lot of people are taken there and released without charge a couple of days later,” Wahid said. The march occurred five days before a general election in Britain which Prime Minister Tony Blair hopes will give his Labour Party a third straight term in office.
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.
Brian Knowlton IHT WASHINGTON U.S. officials will soon release five of the nine British citizens detained at the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the British government announced Thursday. All were captured while allegedly fighting alongside Taliban militants against U.S. and British troops in Afghanistan A Spaniard was returned Friday to Spain, where he reportedly faced immediate interrogation by a magistrate investigating terrorism. The fate of about 10 other European detainees, including French, Swedish and German nationals, remained unclear. Negotiations over the release of British detainees had rotated partly around the sticky question of whether they would be jailed, tried or freed upon returning home. The Pentagon has announced plans to establish a panel to review detainees’ cases annually to see which of them posed no threat and could be released. But senior Defense Department officials said Feb. 12 that they expected to keep large numbers of the detainees for many years, even indefinitely. Some of the roughly 650 detainees have been held for as long as two years without being charged. To date, nearly 90 detainees have been released, and U.S. officials have suggested that more than 100 of those deemed less dangerous might be eligible for eventual release.