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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 10:30 GMT 11:30 UK
Q&A: Terrorism laws
The government's anti-terrorism measures are in the spotlight as courts say control orders break human rights laws - and MPs criticise the case put to allow police to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without charge.

What are the new anti-terror laws?

The Terrorism Act 2006 came into force in April. The law was drawn up in the wake of the 7 July bomb attacks in London and is meant to disrupt the training and recruitment of would-be terrorists.

Was there cross party consensus on the new law?

No. It had a rocky ride in Parliament, with Tony Blair suffering his first Commons defeat as prime minister over plans to extend to 90 days the time police can hold terror suspects without charge. In the end a compromise was agreed which extended the time limit to 28 days, from its previous 14 days.

Why is this in the news now?

The influential House of Commons home affairs committee has criticised the case ministers and the police put for the 90 days detention. But the MPs on the committee have also said they believe the 28 day limit may well have to be extended in the future. Chancellor Gordon Brown is also said to be supportive of the limit being extended.

What were the other terror laws sticking points?

There was particular controversy over the creation of a new offence of the "glorification" of terror - people who "praise or celebrate" terrorism in a way that makes others think they should emulate such attacks. The then Home Secretary Charles Clarke said people should not, for example, be allowed to glorify the 7 July attacks, or the bombers themselves, as it could encourage impressionable young men to think they should commit similar atrocities.

What's the problem with that?

Critics say the laws are just not needed and will only damage legitimate freedom of speech. They claim the glorification offence could see the Irish taoiseach prosecuted in the UK for celebrating the Easter Rising. They also point out such laws could have led to people being arrested in the 1980s for supporting Nelson Mandela's fight against apartheid in South Africa. These claims were rejected by Mr Clarke, who told MPs such circumstances as the anti-apartheid movement would not happen again.

Isn't encouraging terrorism tackled by existing laws?

Opponents of the glorification clause say laws against incitement to murder or hatred cover many potential problems. But ministers insist new powers are needed to enable police to take action against placards celebrating the 7 July bombings, for example.

What else is in the Terrorism Act?

The Act tries to make it easier to prosecute potential bombers, with new offences of preparing a terrorist act, giving or receiving terrorist training, and selling or spreading terrorist publications. It would also widen powers to ban organisations which glorify terrorism.

Which organisations face being banned?

On 5 August 2005, the prime minister said two radical Muslim groups would be banned - Hizb ut-Tahrir (HT) and Al Muhajiroun, formerly run by radical cleric Omar Bakri Mohammed. The law is in place and the Home Office says that the position of the two organisations is "under review". Many Muslims have spoken out in defence of HT, saying that while they may oppose its radical politics, they do not believe it is linked to terrorism.

What is the row about the control orders?

A High Court judge has ruled control orders are "conspicuously unfair" and argued that safeguards to protect the rights of suspects are "a thin veneer of legality". His comments came after a High Court challenge by the first British citizen to be the subject of a control order. Another judge has subsequently also ruled in favour of six people who claim their human rights were infringed by the control orders they were placed under.

What are control orders?

The orders - under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005 - allow the government to put individuals suspected of involvement in terrorism under house arrest. They have to report to a police station daily and restrictions are placed on their movements, banning them, for example, from visiting airports or railway stations.

Why doesn't the government just charge people if they suspect them of being terrorists?

Because they have not got sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges. Control orders were brought in last year after an attempt to hold suspects without charge at Belmarsh jail following a challenge under the Human Rights Act.

How many people are under control orders?

There are thought to be about a dozen people subject to control orders, including three British citizens.

What does the judge's ruling mean for the government's anti-terror laws?

The judge was unable to lift the control orders but his ruling means it means they may now be challenged under human rights law - potentially leaving a key plank of the government's anti-terror strategy in tatters. The government has said it does not accept the judge's ruling.

Background to the government's anti-terror plans

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