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Last Updated: Thursday, 15 September 2005, 12:28 GMT 13:28 UK
Terror detention plans outlined
Aldgate bomb site
The measures have been made more urgent by the London bombs
Home Secretary Charles Clarke has backed calls for police to be able to hold terror suspects for up to three months without charge.

Suspects can currently be held for just two weeks. Critics say the proposed extension amounts to internment.

Mr Clarke has published full details of proposed new anti-terror laws against indirect incitement and "glorification" of terrorism and preparing attacks.

He wants cross-party consensus to get the laws through Parliament quickly.

But already the opposition parties say they have problems with parts of the plans.

Outlawing "glorification" of terrorism
Offence of acts preparatory to terrorism
Law against giving or receiving terror training
New offence against indirect incitement of terrorism
Powers to tackle bookshops selling extremist material
Using phone-tap evidence in courts being considered
Pre-charge detentions powers extended from two weeks to three months
Those applying for British citizenship must be "of good character"

Ministers said after the July bombings they planned the new offences of "acts preparatory to terrorism", indirect incitement of terrorism and the giving or receiving of terror training.

Now they have published the draft legislation for those three new offences - which have cross-party backing.

But the proposals also include a separate offence of "glorification" of terrorism.

Mr Clarke wants new powers to ban organisations which glorify terrorism and to prosecute "extremist" bookshops which sell terrorist propaganda or handbooks.

A change in immigration rules would mean anybody applying for British citizenship would have to be "of good character".

Phone taps

In a letter to his Tory and Lib Dem counterparts, Mr Clarke says the government hopes to decide by the end of the year whether is possible to allow phone-tap evidence to be used in court cases, he says.

The minister stressed he was ready to discuss the wording of the proposals with MPs.

The idea of extending police powers to hold terror suspects without charge is likely to prove the most controversial proposals.

David Davis
David Davis is worried about curbs on free speech

Police chiefs have called for the change, saying they need more than two weeks as it can often be difficult to assemble a case out of complex computer, CCTV and forensic evidence.

Mr Clarke stresses three months in the maximum and would only be expected in "very rare" cases.

Continued detention would also have to be approved by a district judge every week. Pre-charge detentions are currently approved by magistrates every five days.


Shami Chakrabarti, director of civil rights pressure group Liberty, said it was right to look at whether new offences were needed.

"But three months' detention without charge is the very antithesis of justice. This new British internment is as damaging to fighting terrorism at home as to defending our reputation around the globe," she said.

The Tories and Lib Dems are both worried about the detention time extension and the proposed glorification of terrorism offence.

Just use the laws that are already on the books rather than introducing yet more ill thought out legislation
Jan, Guildford, UK

Conservative shadow home secretary David Davis said most of the proposals were "eminently sensible".

He was not convinced about a three month limit, although it might be necessary to extend the current two-week limit.

Putting more resources into forensics might be one way of tackling the problem, Mr Davis suggested.

On the glorification offence, he said: "I want to see people who encourage terrorism either expelled or locked up.

"But we have got to be very careful on the one hand not to unnecessarily limit free speech or on the other hand give clever lawyers a way out by making it too wide."

'Character change'

Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Mark Oaten said: "We still want to try to seek consensus, however two sticking points have emerged for us."

Mr Oaten said extending the detention period would change "the character of the country". It should be possible to charge people for lower offences at least within the current two-week limit.

And he says "glorification" of terrorism was very difficult to define.

On the detention plan, Omar Faruk, from the Islamic Society of Britain, warned: "This is something which will alienate more and more Muslim people."

Details of the proposed new laws come after the immigration service detained seven people the home secretary wants to deport on grounds of national security.

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