Mon, Mar 07, 2005 - Page 6 News List

UK's top cop rails against `fanatics'

AFP , LONDON

Britain's former top policeman strongly defended yesterday the government's new anti-terrorism law and criticized opponents of the measure for not comprehending "the true horror" of terrorism.

"The main opposition to the bill is from people who simply haven't understood the true horror of the terrorism we face," Sir John Stevens, former commissioner of London's Metropolitan Police, wrote in the News of the World tabloid.

He said that at least 100 "Osama bin Laden-trained terrorists" were certainly walking free in Britain, and that the number could be as high as 200.

The law he was defending, which would allow terrorism suspects to be put under limited house arrest, narrowly passed through parliament's lower House of Commons and is being reviewed in the upper House of Lords.

It initially gave the home secretary the right to introduce "control orders" for suspects including curfews, electronic tagging, bans on telephone and Internet use.

But in the face of political resistance, including from its own Labour members, the government has now offered to give judges rather than the minister the final say.

In an article entitled "Forget human rights ... kick out the fanatics," Stevens said terrorism plots he had become aware of in his job were terrifying.

"Some of the reports that crossed my desk in the last few months alone made my hair stand on end," he wrote.

Like Prime Minister Tony Blair did last week, Stevens dismissed human rights arguments, saying judges and the government had a greater duty to law-abiding citizens than to "hardcore fanatics."

"For the safety of the vast majority, occasionally we will have to accept the infringement of the human rights of high-risk individuals," he said.

"Intelligence proves these fanatics must not walk our streets. They must be locked up -- or kicked out of our country," he wrote, referring to foreign detainees being held without charge in Britain.

Stevens, 62, who retired on Feb. 1, spoke of the "inevitability" of an al-Qaeda attack on London shortly after the Madrid commuter train bombings in March last year in which 191 people died.

The Metropolitan Police, whose 30,000 officers are now led by Sir Ian Blair, is responsible not only for day-to-day policing in Greater London, but also anti-terrorist investigations nationwide.

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