Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Friday, 18 April 2008 18:12 UK

EU tightens anti-terrorism laws

By Oana Lungescu
BBC News, Brussels

Gilles de Kerchove in Brussels,  7 April 2008
Gilles de Kerchove says the internet is being used to radicalise people

European Union ministers have agreed to punish incitement to terrorism through the internet.

At a meeting in Luxembourg, EU justice and interior ministers tightened existing laws.

Public provocation to commit terrorist attacks, as well as recruiting and training people for terrorism will be punishable offences throughout the EU.

The ministers also agreed on an action plan to prevent terrorist groups from getting explosives.

EU officials said the decision to punish propaganda, recruitment and training for terrorism through the internet filled an important gap in European legislation.

Early warning system

They described the internet as a virtual training camp for militants, used to inspire and mobilise local groups.

Earlier this month, the EU anti-terrorism co-ordinator, Gilles de Kerchove, said the threat of terrorism in Europe had not diminished and about 5,000 internet sites were being used to radicalise young people.

National courts will now be able to ask internet service providers to remove such sites.

Britain, Spain and Italy already punish public incitement to terrorism.

But under pressure from Nordic countries and civil rights campaigners, ministers made clear that the new provisions may not be used to restrict freedom of expression.

In a separate move to combat terrorism, they agreed to establish an early-warning system on stolen explosives and detonators by the end of the year.

They also resolved to create a database giving police permanent access to information on incidents involving explosive devices.

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