Thu, Oct 13, 2005 - Page 6 News List

Anti-terror law foes mobilize in UK

AFP , LONDON

British politicians, activists and Muslim leaders mobilized opposition to draft anti-terrorism legislation which Prime Minister Tony Blair's government was due to publish in full yesterday.

The group, which includes London Mayor Ken Livingstone, said it backed steps to prevent bombings like those in the capital on July 7, but opposed any which would trample on political freedoms or alienate Muslims whose help is needed to combat radical Islamic groups.

The Terrorism Bill was due to be published in full for the first time at 12:30pm yesterday ahead of a debate today in the House of Commons.

Livingstone said any laws must pass the "Nelson Mandela test," meaning that they cannot be so tough that Mandela, the activist who became South Africa's first black president, and his supporters would have been banned under them.

During a press conference on Tuesday, Blair threw his support behind tough new measures, including plans to extend the period of detention for terrorist suspects who have not been charged to 90 days from 14 days.

In a surprising contrast, Home Secretary Charles Clarke signalled possible concessions to the measure in the new bill, which was drawn up in the wake of the London bombings that killed 56 people, including the four presumed bombers.

The draft law also seeks to ban the indirect support or glorification of terrorism, which would carry up to seven years' imprisonment for offenders.

Kate Hudson from the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, who was part of the campaign, said democratic freedoms should not be compromised, reflecting fears the measures could curtail the right to peaceful protest on issues such as nuclear weapons and nuclear power.

She recalled that terror laws had been used to eject a life-long Labour member, Walter Wolfgang, from the party's conference last month for voicing his opposition to the war in Iraq. Hudson said the incident demonstrated "the serious threat that these laws will be used to curtail the right to protest ... We must defend our democratic right to protest."

Blair and other Labour leaders apologized for Wolfgang's ejection.

Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general of the Muslim Council for Britain, said: "We all need to be vigilant in ensuring that the government's proposed measures do not jettison fundamental freedoms at the cost of providing little or no guarantee of extra security."

Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament Mark Oaten said "the government must not hand the terrorists a victory by taking away long held liberties and principles of justice."

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