Theresa May faces questions from MPs over why Britain granted asylum to one of the world’s most wanted al-Qa’ida terror suspects. Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he would be raising concerns with the Home Secretary over why Abu Anas al-Libi was given asylum ahead of his alleged involvement in the 1998 American embassy bombings in east Africa.
Al-Libi, who was captured by US special forces in Tripoli this weekend, reportedly arrived in Britain in the mid-1990s and lived in Manchester after being granted political asylum. Detectives are thought to have found an al-Qa’ida manual at al-Libi’s Manchester home which advised followers on how to execute terror plots.
Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said the case would be raised with the Home Secretary when she appears before MPs. Stating: “This case raises serious questions about the motives behind asylum and national security decisions in the UK.
The Government should not tell women what to wear, the Home Secretary has said amid ongoing debate over the use of full-face veils. Theresa May said it is for women to “make a choice” about what clothes they wear, including veils, although there will be some circumstances when it will be necessary to ask for them to be removed.
The ruling followed calls by Home Office Minister Jeremy Browne for a national debate on whether the state should step in to prevent young women having the veil imposed upon them.
Asked if parliament needs to issue formal guidance to courts and schools on whether women should be allowed to wear a veil, the Home Secretary told Sky News: “I start from the position that I don’t think Government should tell people, I don’t think the Government should tell women, what they should be wearing.
“I think it’s for women to make a choice about what clothes they wish to wear, if they wish to wear a veil that is for a woman to make a choice.” There will be some circumstances in which it’s right for public bodies, for example at the border, at airport security, to say there is a practical necessity for asking somebody to remove a veil. “I think it’s for public bodies like the Border Force officials, it’s for schools and colleges, and others like the judiciary, as we’ve recently seen, to make a judgment in relation to those cases as to whether it’s necessary to ask somebody to remove the veil.
“But in general women should be free to decide what to wear for themselves.”
The Government has been accused of double standards in the way it responded to the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby compared to the killing of an 82-year-old Muslim and explosions at three mosques in the West Midlands. Although the stabbing of Mohammed Saleem in Birmingham in April is regarded by police as a terrorist incident, Labour is concerned that it has not been discussed by the task force on extremism set up by David Cameron after the Woolwich killing in May. That was followed by explosions at mosques in Walsall, Tipton and Wolverhampton.
Yvette Cooper, the shadow Home Secretary, has written to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, recalling that Mr Cameron said the task force would look at new ways to support local communities and take a united stand against all forms of extremism. She added: “Like others, I had assumed the Prime Minister’s task force for tackling extremism would engage seriously with the West Midlands communities concerned. Its purpose was to ask questions about attacks, what more we can do to prevent extremism and to protect our communities. Clearly it needs to cover terror attacks on Muslim communities as well as Islamist extremism. So I think it’s really important the Taskforce considers these attacks and engages with the community now.”
Replying to Ms Cooper, the Home Secretary said: “These are of course terrible crimes which have the potential to cause fear and resentment across communities and we must continue to make clear that we will not tolerate extremism which attempts to divide us.”
The Security Minister acknowledged that there was “some fear and concern” in the community. He said: “Specialist advisers have been giving security advice to mosques, Islamic schools and community centres and there have been increased police patrols and community engagement plans.”
The two extremist groups – UK-based Minbar Ansar Deen and Nigeria-based Boko Haram – are to be proscribed in the UK under terrorism laws, making membership and support for them a criminal offence. Home Secretary Theresa May is to lay an order which, if approved by Parliament, will ban both of the radical Islamist organisations from operating in the UK from midnight on Friday morning. Minbar Ansar Deen – also known as Ansar al-Sharia UK – promotes terrorism by distributing content through its online forum, which encourages individuals to travel overseas to engage in extremist activity, specifically fighting, the Home Office said. The Government said banning Boko Haram, which aspires to establish Islamic law in Nigeria, will prevent the group from operating in the UK and give the police powers to tackle any UK-based support for the group. Decisions to proscribe the organisations are understood to be unrelated to the murder of soldier Drummer Lee Rigby near Woolwich barracks in south-east London in May. The penalties for proscription offences can be a maximum of 10 years in prison or a £5,000 fine. Under the Terrorism Act 2000, the Home Secretary can proscribe an organisation if it is believed to be concerned in terrorism. If approved by Parliament, it will be a criminal offence to belong to or back Minbar Ansar Deen or Boko Haram, as well arrange meetings or wear clothing in support of them. Other proscribed groups include al-Qa’ida, Al Shabaab and Islam4UK, which before it was banned was led by Anjem Choudary.
Two of the people behind a campaign against the building of the “Ground Zero Mosque” in New York have been barred from entering Britain to speak at an English Defence League rally in London this weekend, it has been announced. The Home Secretary Theresa May has told Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, both of the anti-Islamic group Stop Islamization of America, that their presence in the UK would “not be conducive to the public good”. The decision, which they cannot appeal, will stand for between three and five years.
Ms Geller said: “In a striking blow against freedom, the British government has banned us from entering the country. In not allowing us into the country solely because of our true and accurate statements about Islam, the British government is behaving like a de facto Islamic state. The nation that gave the world the Magna Carta is dead.”
Mr Spencer echoed her comments, and added: “This decision is a victory for the campaign of smears and defamation that has been waged against us in the UK since we announced we were going. In reality, our work is dedicated to the defence of the freedom of speech and equality of rights for all. If that is too hot for the U.K. now, then Britain faces a grim future.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We can confirm that Pamela Geller is subject to an exclusion decision. The Home Secretary will seek to exclude an individual if she considers that his or her presence in the UK is not conducive to the public good. We condemn all those whose behaviours and views run counter to our shared values and will not stand for extremism in any form.” EDL co-founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – aka Tommy Robinson – did not respond to a request for comment.
The Home Secretary is understood to be considering a request to ban two of the people behind a campaign against New York’s “Ground Zero Mosque” from entering the UK. Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who are among America’s most notorious anti-Muslim campaigners, have been invited to speak at an English Defence League rally in Woolwich to mark Armed Forces Day and the death of Drummer Lee Rigby. But the chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Keith Vaz has written to Ms May expressing his concern and labelling them “incendiary speakers”. In his letter, Mr Vaz wrote: “These individuals are infamous in America for inciting racial hatred, including sponsoring discriminatory advertisements placed on public transport. “It is clear that the location, motivation and attendees at this march will incite hatred. Adding incendiary speakers such as Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer just fuels the fire.”
Mr Vaz said: “I am alarmed that the EDL is planning this type of march in Woolwich. Before we have to pay the costs for the extra policing required for this demonstration the Home Secretary should consider using her discretion to ban these two speakers from entering the country. A ban should be enforced properly and physically stop people entering our borders.” Scotland Yard said that it was aware of the march and would have an appropriate policing plan in place.
A government source indicated that the Home Secretary was looking into the proposal to ban the pair. However, a spokesman refused to confirm this, saying that it would not be appropriate to discuss individual cases.
EDL co-founder Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – who also goes by the name ‘Tommy Robinson’ – said: “It is ridiculous. We want other extremists to be banned from entering the country. These two people have never been arrested, they are well-respected in America. It is fascism, to me.”
Neither Ms Geller nor Mr Spencer responded to requests for comment.
26 May 2013
UK Home Secretary Theresa May has called for new counter-terror measures to combat extremism in the wake of the Woolwich murder. Though working under the assumption that the Woolwich murder was a lone wolf incident, Mrs. May warned that potentially thousands of people across the UK are at risk of becoming radicalized.
Among the proposals suggested by the Home Secretary was a closer monitoring of radicalization materials available through the internet. A bill currently in parliament, the so called “snoopers’ charter” would expand the government’s ability to use court orders to block sites containing radicalization materials. Said Mrs. May, “There has been discussion of a greater use of court orders to block some sites, but it will be difficult to decide whether responsibility will lie with the Home Office or internet service providers.” Nick Clegg, the Deputy Prime Minister, has voiced his objections to the scope of the bill and said that he will only allow small measures to be passed. Similarly, Yvette Cooper, the Labour Party shadow home secretary, has agreed in principle that government security apparatuses may need more authority, but that changes should be limited.
The Home Secretary also confirmed that Prevent, the government’s counter-terror strategy, will be reviewed in light of recent events. It is thought that the new review will redirect counter-terror efforts to countering radicalization on university campuses, reversing a trend concerned with protecting free speech. For its part, the Muslim Council of Britain supports granting security services the authority to combat extremism and prevent future acts of violence, but urged the government to consult with Muslim groups to ensure that the new measures don’t prove detrimental to the Muslim community. A statement released by the council read in part, “We must be vigilant and ensure we do not inadvertently give into the demands of all extremists: making our society less free, divided and suspicious of each other.”
If the Home Secretary wins her battle to deport Abu Qatada, it will be based on the assumption that he will not be abused. In Amman, Enjoli Liston hears from those who have strong reasons to doubt it. Abdullah Mahhaden was arrested around four hours after he managed to escape from a police crackdown on an anti-government protest in Amman on 31 March 2012. The demonstration had been calling for the release of seven activists. The 25 year-old accountant-turned-activists had wanted to make his voice heard. He ended up at the city’s main police station, where he says he was beaten by as many as 20 police officers. “I was the last one to get caught that night,” Mahhaden told The Independent. “The police started asking me, ‘Why were you demonstrating? How did you know about the demonstration? Who organised it?’ I said, ‘I forget’, so they beat me. The Home Secretary, Theresa May, said this week the Government had signed a mutual assistance treaty with Jordan, complete with new assurances on fair trials, to ensure Abu Qatada can be deported even if the Government’s latest appeal to the Supreme Court is blocked. Hossam al-Kaid, from Aleppo, who studied law in Syria, also works in Amman and agrees: “In Jordan, there is a fear of people like Abu Qatada.” He says he would rather the radical cleric stay in the UK, but if he were to be sent back to Jordan, he believes he would receive a fair trial. Human rights advocates continue to claim otherwise. “Jordanian law already proscribes torture and the use of confessions obtained under duress, yet judges routinely accept these confessions,” says Adam Coogle, Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch. The organisation has in the past both praised the Jordanian government for its openness towards investigating human rights abuses in prisons, and criticised its insistence on paying little attention to the results of the investigations. Many Jordanians believe Abu Qatada should remain in the UK. “If England gives back Abu Qatada, it is like a gift for the Jordanian government,” he says. “It is like the English government sending a message to the world that it has ensured that there is no torture in Jordan. And that is not the truth.”
David Davis has claimed proposed plans to monitor emails, phone calls and websites will make existing surveillance legislation “60 million times worse”.
The former Conservative Home Secretary argued the new powers risked causing enormous resentment by allowing “unfettered” access to all forms of communication.
The Coalition is to revive plans first raised then shelved by the last Labour Government to track the activities of every Briton who uses a phone or the internet.
The proposals, to be unveiled in the Queen’s Speech, will see a huge expansion in the amount of data communication providers are required to keep for at least a year.
It will allow the police and intelligence officers to monitor who someone is in contact with or websites they visit, although the content of such communications will not be accessed.
Under new legislation, internet companies will be instructed to install hardware enabling GCHQ – the Government’s electronic “listening” agency – to examine “on demand” any phone call made, text message and email sent, and website accessed.
Home Secretary Theresa May has banned a march through Tower Hamlets, one of the UK’s biggest Muslim communities, planned by the English Defence League (EDL) for September 3rd. The Guardian reports that May has effectively outlawed ‘any marches in Tower Hamlets and four neighbouring boroughs – whether by the EDL or any other group – for the next 30 days, having “balanced rights to protest against the need to ensure local communities and property are protected”’. The ban was requested by the Metropolitan police due to concern over serious public disorder, violence, and damage. In the past, members of the EDL, which purports to oppose Islamic extremism but insists to not be a racist group, have been seen to be extremely provocative during their marches, which were mainly aimed at Muslim communities.