Critics raise alarm over 'exclusive' new terror laws !
Read the joint letter in full
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/terroris ... 77,00.html
Matthew Tempest, political correspondent
Friday August 26, 2005
A cross-party coalition today warned the government that its forthcoming anti-terrorism legislation risks criminalising or excluding people who have already condemned terrorist attacks.
A joint statement, arguing for a "broad consensus" and the involvement of all communities in the fight against terrorism, attracted over 30 signatories. These included the mayor of London, Ken Livingstone; the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Mark Oaten; religious groups, trade unions, commentators and lawyers.
The home secretary, Charles Clarke has consulted opposition parties, faith groups and civil liberties campaigners on new anti-terrorism powers since the July terrorist attacks in London. But he needs cross-party support if a new anti-terrorism bill is to be passed quickly by both houses of parliament after the summer recess. The coalition is set to lobby ministers and is likely to hold a rally in central London in the autumn.
They warn: "A number of the security measures which the government has said it is considering risk criminalising or excluding people who condemn terrorist attacks and whose co-operation is indispensable to the work of the police in fighting terrorism.
"We believe that the fight against terrorism requires a broad consensus around its means and the involvement of all communities to isolate and defeat those who would use terror to divide us."
The Home Office is currently drafting new anti-terror legislation - in addition to the two Acts already passed in the past five years - to be debated when parliament returns after the summer recess.
The measures are expected to include a new offence of "acts preparatory to terrorism", indirect incitement to terrorism, and those "giving and receiving terrorist training". More controversially, the police have requested to be allowed to detain terrorist suspects for up to three months without charging, and the question of allowing security service phone tap evidence is also to be resolved.
In addition to that planned legislation, this week the home secretary, Charles Clarke, substantially increased the criteria by which his current powers on deporting or excluding foreign extremists could be met.
They include anyone supporting terrorist acts anywhere around the world, by means of the internet, bookshops, the written word or preaching.
Today's statement does not specify which measures the group may object to. In the statement, published in a letter to the Guardian, the signatories said they supported action against those who planned, supported or carried out terrorist attacks.
But they warned that new measures risked excluding people who were "indispensable to the work of the police in fighting terrorism".
Other signatories include the former health secretary Frank Dobson; Labour MP Sadiq Khan; the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Mark Oaten; Sir Iqbal Sacranie of the Muslim Council of Britain and Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty.
The prime minister's sister-in-law, journalist Lauren Booth, is another notable supporter. Mr Livingstone emphasised that he supported measures which dealt "effectively" with the perpetrators of terrorism.
But he added: "I oppose measures worded so loosely that they would in the past have banned Nelson Mandela and his supporters from Britain, and will give rise to great fear and concern amongst communities whose support is vital to the police at this time.
"And I am concerned that those in the media and elsewhere who are trying to cynically exploit the aftermath of the bombings to witch-hunt and attack legitimate mainstream Muslims in this country on issues like the Middle East are only helping the terrorists."
Mr Khan, MP for Tooting, south London, said the coalition demonstrated the "widespread concern" over parts of the government's response to the July 7 bombings.
"There is a real danger that hastily drafted legislation could end up stifling the ability of Britons to stand up for those living under oppression abroad.
"Who decides if someone is a terrorist or freedom fighter?" he added.
The rest is here:
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/terroris ... 31,00.html