By Arshad Sharif Prime Minister Tony Blair on Wednesday backed the controversial Terrorism Bill which would allow the British law-enforcement agencies to detain terrorist suspects without a charge for up to 90 days. The Terrorism Bill, which proposes to increase the limit of detention without a charge from 14 to 90 days, was published in full by Home Secretary Charles Clarke within hours after getting support of the prime minister in the Commons amidst strong opposition. Formulated in the aftermath of July 7 London bombings, Mr Blair expects to get a majority support to pass the Bill by the year’s end despite opposition from civil right groups, political opponents and many in the Muslim community who believe it would be targeted against the Muslims. Giving support to the Bill before it was made public, Mr Blair said: I have to say that I, for the reasons the police have given, have found their request for this power absolutely compelling. Addressing parliamentarians at prime minister’s questions in the House of Commons, Mr Blair said, What I have to do is to try to do my best to protect people in this country and to make sure that their safety and their civil liberty to life come first, and that is what I’m going to try to do. Earlier, Tory leader Michael Howard said he was yet to be persuaded over the 90-day proposal and called for a more fundamental examination of the criminal justice system. The prime minister’s official spokesman told a regular briefing at Westminster, If you have to arrest people at an earlier stage of investigation because of the possibility of suicide bombs and the devastation that causes, therefore you do need to give more time to the police to gather evidence. That is the crux of the argument. The Terrorism Bill also made glorifying or indirectly encouraging terrorism an offence carrying up to seven years’ imprisonment.
Aug. 9 (Bloomberg) — Measures proposed by U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair to crack down on Muslim extremists are ”hasty” and ”inappropriate” and may end up encouraging terrorism, leaders in Parliament and the Muslim community said. Blair failed to consult adequately before announcing plans on Aug. 5 to tackle extremism by deporting clerics, closing down mosques and banning parties such as Hizb ut-Tahrir, said Sir Iqbal Sacranie, secretary-general of the Muslim Council of Britain, and John Denham, chairman of the Home Affairs Committee in Parliament. ”I don’t think enough thought and consideration has been given in terms of its repercussion and impact it has on the community,” Sacranie said in a telephone interview. ”Measures need to be taken, that’s understood; but the way they’re coming out at the moment is not really very helpful.” Blair has been under pressure to act against domestic Muslim extremists after the police reported that the suspects of the July 7 and July 21 bomb attacks in London, which killed 56 people including four bombers, were British residents. U.K. policies have let in extremist clerics who praise acts of terrorism, Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi ambassador to London and former intelligence chief, said. The prime minister postponed his vacation plans by a day to announce the measures. It was followed by reports in the Times and other newspapers that the government was considering the introduction of secret courts for pre-trials of terrorism suspects as well as charging people under a treason law that hasn’t been used since World War II. Consensus After initially consulting with opposition leaders and Muslims about the government’s reaction to the bomb attacks, Blair failed to seek further consensus opinion, said Denham, former Home Affairs junior minister and currently chairman of the House of Commons Committee on Home Affairs. ”The last few days really give this sense that the government have got into a real state of nerves about the whole thing,” Denham told the British Broadcasting Corp. PM program. ”I think they’ve got to get a grip on it very, very quickly, stop floating half-baked ideas and get back to proper cross-party consensus on the serious measures that need to be taken.” Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott, in charge of government while Blair is on vacation, said critics will have a chance to debate his proposals as they considered by Parliament. ”He’s told people to get on with it and see how we can flesh out these proposals,” Prescott said at a press conference in London. ”In the meantime, there’s bound to be speculation.”