Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Anti-terror bill to be introduced into British Parliament


Home Secretary Charles Clarke said he will introduce anti-terrorism legislation to Parliament next week that would allow him to impose orders restricting suspects' activities.

The plan is a response to a December ruling from Britain's highest court, which condemned a law that allowed foreign terrorism suspects to be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

Clarke said Friday he was hopeful that the legislation would pass within weeks, even though Conservative Party leader Michael Howard has criticized it harshly.

Clarke said the government envisions giving the home secretary the power to impose "control orders" on terrorism suspects.

He gave few details, but he has previously said the orders could include restrictions such as house arrest, electronic tagging, curfews, bans on meeting certain people and limits on access to telecommunications for suspects who have not been charged with or convicted of a crime.

In December, nine law lords in the House of Lords said the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act, rushed through after the Sept. 11 attacks, was incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

Since then, officials have been scrambling to come up with new legislation that they believe would address the threat from terrorism in a way acceptable to the court. Clarke said he was confident the new measures would be on the law books by March 10, when the current, disputed law expires.

Prime Minister Tony Blair and Clarke met Friday with leaders of the two main opposition parties to discuss the proposals, which would apply to foreign and British terrorism suspects.

Howard condemned the government plans as "ill-thought through" and "fundamentally flawed." Charles Kennedy, of the Liberal Democrats, said his party's support would depend on the government giving judges some role in the imposition of control orders.

Clarke criticized Howard for opposing the orders, saying "that was the real bone of contention that appeared in the meeting."

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