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Home Secretary Jack Straw
"We have narrowed the definition but broadened the scope"
 real 28k

The BBC's John Silverman
"A kind of dual system of justice is emerged"
 real 28k

The BBC's Paul Anstiss
"The definition of terrorism had been redefined"
 real 56k

Director of Liberty, John Wadham
"One of the worst measures I've seen for many years"
 real 56k

Monday, 19 February, 2001, 11:02 GMT
Straw defends new terrorism powers
Terrorists
The act replaces the 1973 Prevention of Terrorism Act
Home Secretary Jack Straw has defended a new anti-terrorism law which gives sweeping powers to crackdown on any groups that use Britain as a base for international terrorism.

New legislation, which came into effect on Monday, makes it illegal for anyone in Britain to incite terrorism abroad.


It is very important that we should have similar kind of powers to those of other countries

Jack Straw
The Terrorism Act also changes the definition of terrorist, which previously focused largely on Irish paramilitaries.

The law gives police increased powers to seize assets and arrest those they believe may be promoting terrorism outside Britain.

Mr Straw said the law brought Britain into line with other countries and into line with the Human Rights Act.

Important powers

"We have narrowed the definition but broadened its scope away from just Irish terrorism to any other kind of terrorism because frankly there are other types of terrorists these days and it is very important that we should have similar kind of powers to those of other countries."

But civil rights groups have expressed concern with the legislation suggesting that it could stop legitimate protests, such as those against road building or GM crop trials.

Mr Straw rejected their criticism. "This bill actually strengthens people's civil liberties," he said.

Jack Straw
Jack Straw said the act gave police extra powers
"In many ways, it is a strengthening of civil liberties but also a strengthening of important powers against terrorists."

The law replaces the 1973 Prevention of Terrorism Act, which gave the police special powers to stop, search, arrest and detain terrorist suspects, and had to be renewed each year.

The law has been introduced partly in response to complaints from foreign governments that Britain is harbouring groups that are carrying out violent campaigns in their countries.

Arrest

Under the new law, fundraising and openly supporting groups involved in terrorism will lead to arrest.

The Act makes it illegal to plan a violent campaign, even if it is carried out abroad.

Previously, foreigners in Britain who may have been planning attacks abroad had the right to stay, provided they could convince the courts they would be persecuted if they were sent home.

It is thought that representatives of several international groups could fall foul of the new rules.

The government is drawing up a list of groups which it considers to be terrorist under the new legislation.

They will be added to a list of proscribed organisations, which currently includes Irish groups such as the IRA and the Ulster Volunteer Force.

Protest groups such as militant animal rights organisations could be included.

Simon Hughes
Simon Hughes:worried by new Act
Cyber-terrorists who hack into computers to undermine governments or threaten lives are also targeted.

Speaking to BBC News, Mr Straw said: "The results of cyber-terrorism by which people could hack into the control systems of, say, the water supply, the electricity supply, those operating a hospital could be worse even than those caused directly by explosion so we have had to include that in there."

Once an organisation is on the list, it is illegal to be a member of the group, support it financially, display its emblems or share a platform with a member at a meeting of three or more people.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Simon Hughes said his party had serious reservations about some parts of the legislation.

Most worrying was the wide definition of terrorism, which he believed could easily be used to stifle legitimate protest.

"If you are a trade union leader calling for a strike at a hospital you would effectively be caught by the legislation," he said.

The leader of the Muslim Parliament, Dr Ghayasauddin Siddiqui, told BBC News that many British Asians would feel intimidated by the new laws.

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See also:

19 Feb 01 | UK
Britain's 'safe haven' past
01 Sep 00 | UK Politics
Major condemns 'urban terrorists'
16 Mar 00 | UK Politics
Terror law clears Commons hurdle
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