Terror laws face easy ride in climate of co-operation
London Times | July 14, 2005
By Simon Freeman
The Government's plans for new anti-terror laws against people who encourage terrorist acts today seemed set for a smooth passage after the Conservatives indicated that they would back them.
The shock of the London bombings has injected a new spirit of co-operation, after the Government's last attempts to tighten anti-terror laws were ditched in disarray before the election.
Tony Blair told Parliament yesterday that he wanted to introduce laws to target people who "glorify or endorse" acts of terrorism, and those who instigate or prepare such actions. Those convicted could be excluded from Britain or even deported.
The Government originally planned to begin talks about an anti-terrorism Bill in the autumn, but yesterday’s initiative suggests it is preparing to move much more swiftly.
The issue of what would constitute the offence of "glorifying" or "endorsing" terrorism is expected to prove tricky. Human rights campaigners have already expressed their intention to challenge any ambiguous language in the Bill.
Michael Howard, the Conservative leader, today suggested that the new measures - which have proved controversial in earlier incarnations - would be given full support from the opposition.
Labour has already harnessed solidarity in Europe to pass measures which will force mobile phone operators and internet service providers (ISPs) to log details of all emails, text messages and telephone calls made by for up to a year. The proposal had earlier been unanimuosly vetoed by the EU citing fears it was a breach of human rights legislation.
Mr Blair has told the Commons that the Government would look carefully at action against those "who incite such hatred in our community . . . this is one of the things we should look at in the next few months".
In the meantime, the Prime Minister has called a summit of Islamic and political leaders to work with the Muslim community to help it to drive out extremism. He called for worldwide action to uproot the "evil ideology" and "twisted teachings" that lay behind the terrorists’ actions. Britain’s four Muslim MPs have said that their community can no longer live in denial, and must tackle the extremism within it.
The summit will be attended by Mr Blair, Mr Howard, Charles Kennedy and leaders of all sections of the Muslim community.
Mr Howard told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he hoped it would be possible to reach a genuine consensus with Tony Blair over the nation's legislative response to the bombing. He said that he would support measures to combat terrorism in "this different climate."
He added that the Tories were still keen to see phone-tap and bugging evidence made admissible in court proceedings. He said: "The place for people who commit terrible acts, or who are in any way involved in them, is in prison. That is what we sought to achieve and we will still seek to achieve, and any step which we can take, and we believe that allowing intercept evidence to be used in our courts would help that, we think should be looked at."
An offence of acts preparatory to terrorism is aimed at people helping terrorists, including those providing safe houses and financial backing, and a new crime of "glorifying or condoning" terrorist activity is aimed at extremist clerics.
Ministers are also preparing measures to make sure that imams coming to Britain have a better command of English and understanding of the British way of life.
Yesterday the leaders of the Muslim community continued their soul-searching to find out if there was anything they could have done to prevent the attacks and what they can do to prevent future outrages.
One of the strongest early statements came from the Muslim Council of Britain. After an emergency meeting, Sir Iqbal Sacranie, the secretary-general, said: "We have received terrible news from the police with anguish, shock and horror. We reiterate our absolute commitment and resolve to helping the police bring to justice all involved in this crime of mass murder. Nothing in Islam can ever justify the evil actions of the bombers."
For the Muslim Association of Britain, Harris Bokhari said that all communities, including Muslims, must co-operate with the police to prevent further attacks: "We cannot rule out the possibility of a conspiracy to carry out more attacks in the future, whether near or distant. An urgent measure would be to lend the police a helping hand in their investigations and their efforts to stem the threat altogether," Mr Bokhari said.
Last night the Prince of Wales urged British Muslims to "root out those among them who preach and practise such hatred and bitterness". Writing in the Daily Mirror, he said a "deeply evil influence" had been brought to bear on the bombers and that their actions had been a "perversion" of Islam.
Meanwhile, in America a prominent Islamic scholar has been sentenced to life in prison after he exhorted his followers after the September 11 attacks in New York to join the Taleban and fight US troops. Ali al-Timimi of Fairfax, Virginia, was convicted in April of soliciting others to levy war against the United States, inducing others to aid the Taleban, and inducing others to use firearms in violation of federal law.
Prosecutors portrayed al-Timimi, a native US citizen, as having "rock star" status among his followers, who frequently heard his lectures at a small mosque in Falls Church, a Washington, D.C. suburb. In particular, prosecutors said, the defendant wielded enormous influence among a group of young Muslim men in northern Virginia who played paintball games in 2000 and 2001.
Authorities said they were a "Virginia jihad network" training for holy war around the globe. Nine members of the group have been convicted for their roles in the conspiracy, with prison terms ranging from three years to life.
Al-Timimi’s lawyers argued that their client merely suggested that Muslims may want to leave the United States after September 11 because of the potential for a backlash against them. But he was accused of telling a group of young Muslim men just days after the attack that an apocalyptic battle between Muslims and nonbelievers was at hand, and that Muslims were obligated to engage in holy war. He told the group that defence of the Taleban was a requirement and that US troops were a legitimate target, according to court testimony.
Several of the men who heard Al-Timimi’s speech travelled days later to Pakistan and began training with a militant Islamic group called Lashkar-e-Taiba, officials said. Some testified that their goal was to obtain training that would allow them to fight alongside the Taleban, though none actually made it to Afghanistan.
WAR OF WORDS
Would these people be guilty of "glorifying or condoning acts of terror"?
Omar Bakri Mohammed "These two brothers have drawn a divine road map, one of which is drawn in blood. We pray to God to accept one brother as a martyr"
QC’s view Offensive but probably not glorifying or condoning terror
Abu Qatada "Rome is a cross. The West is a cross and Romans are the owners of the cross. Muslims’ target is the West. We will split Rome open. The destruction must be carried out by sword. Those who will destroy Rome are already preparing the swords. Rome will not be conquered with the word but with the force of arms"
QC Clearly encouraging violence and probably caught by new offence
Dr Azzam Tamimi, of the Muslim Association of Britain, writing in the Jakarta Post on suicide bombers "To them, the eventual destiny of their short trip to Tel Aviv, Natanya or other Zionist-infested Palestinian towns is eternal life in a world of divine bliss"
QC Clearly glorifying sucide bombers and terror