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UK unveils anti-terror curbs

UK Home Secretary David Blunkett said:
UK Home Secretary David Blunkett said: "Our first duty is to protect our people."  

BRIGHTON, England -- The UK is to radically overhaul its existing anti-terror laws following a major review in the wake of the attacks on the United States.

British Home Secretary David Blunkett has unveiled a raft of measures designed to combat terrorism, including tightening rules allowing asylum-seekers into the country and improving access to information on suspected terrorists.

In France, Prime Minister Lionel Jospin proposed draft emergency anti-terrorism legislation when he addressed the National Assembly on Wednesday.

He talked about extending police powers of search and surveillance on property and vehicles as well as beefing up Internet security against those who plan to use it to co-ordinate crime.

But Italy took a contrary view, voting to make cross-border investigations harder.

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The Italian Senate approved a bill by 161 votes to 111 in the face of criticism which said the law would weaken the fight against international terrorism.

The National Association of Magistrates denounced the measure, saying it could make many cases impossible to prosecute, but Conservatives, who pushed for the bill, said it was aimed only at protecting the rights of defendants.

The legislation imposes guidelines making it harder both for Italian prosecutors to obtain evidence from abroad or to share their information with foreign prosecutors.

Blunkett, speaking at his party's annual conference, said it was vital to fight the war against terrorism on every front.

He told delegates: "I do not believe in passing laws just to give the impression we are doing something. The bills we will put before Parliament will focus on practical measures which will deter and disrupt the work of terrorists in Britain."

The UK's measures include:

* Making it an offence for financial institutions to fail to report transactions which they know or suspect of being linked to terrorist activity.

* Giving law enforcement agencies full access to passenger and freight information which air and sea carriers will be required to retain.

* Amending the UK Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 to ensure that those suspected or convicted of terrorist involvement cannot be considered for asylum.

Blunkett said the government's moves against terrorism would be measured and proportionate. None, he said, would threaten basic freedoms.

But radical change was needed in some areas, for example with respect to the extradition procedures.

Blunkett said: "What a farcical situation we face that it can take five, seven, ten years to extradite someone who is known to have been engaged in or perpetrating terrorism.

"Speeding up our processes will not remove due process but it will remove the ability of those to abuse it.

"Preventing those who are arrested at airports from using the asylum laws to claim sanctuary will not threaten those legitimately entering the country.

"These do not threaten our freedoms, but they do threaten those who seek to take away our freedoms. That is the lesson of the last three weeks."

In addition, Blunkett moved to protect the Muslim community from any backlash to the U.S. attacks, which have been blamed on Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden.

Blunkett announced that the law on incitement will be widened to include religious hatred as well as racial hatred.

"I will toughen up our incitement laws to ensure attention-seekers and extremists cannot abuse our rights of free speech to stir up tensions," he said.

The Crown Prosecution Service said on Tuesday it was looking into the activities of Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed after he issued a fatwa, or religious edict, calling for Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf's death for backing Washington.

He also said a new system of work permits similar to the U.S. Green Card would be introduced to clamp down on illegal workers and encourage in people with key skills.


• Russia and EU pledge cooperation
October 3, 2001

• UK Home Office
• Office of the French Prime Minister
• Italian government

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