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Britain to rush anti-terror laws

David Blunkett
Blunkett: Freedom does not mean offering hospitality to terrorists  

LONDON, England -- Britain has announced new laws allowing the rapid freezing of suspected terrorist networks' assets and making it harder for terrorists to masquerade as asylum seekers.

There will be new laws to bring "robust and streamlined" procedures for asylum and immigration, Home Secretary David Blunkett told the British parliament.

"We all accept that there is a compelling need for more effective powers to exclude and remove suspected terrorists from our country," Blunkett told the House of Commons.

"We rightly pride ourselves on the safe haven we offer to those genuinely fleeing terror. But our moral obligation and love of freedom does not extend to offering hospitality to terrorists."

The new laws Blunkett unveiled would give police and customs officers new powers to demand that people remove facial coverings, enable fingerprints taken in immigration and asylum cases to be kept on file, and allow authorities to detain "those who are a terrorist threat" but cannot be deported.

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The laws, to be introduced in an emergency parliamentary bill, follow the September 11 airliner attacks on New York and Washington last month in which 5,400 people died.

It was later revealed that a number of people connected with the U.S. hijacks and prime suspect Osama bin Laden passed through or lived in Britain.

The raft of measures formally unveiled as part of Britain's contribution to the anti-terror alliance includes making it a crime to stir up religious hatred.

The changes would make it easier to prosecute British-based groups inciting hatred abroad, Blunkett said.

The anti-terrorism legislation will also ease the exchange of information between law enforcement agencies and allow telephone companies to retain details of calls they have handled, he said.

"None of this is intended to stifle free speech, dialogue or debate," Blunkett said. "Fair comment is not at risk ... Only the incitement to hate."

Blunkett said he was weigh a balance between "respecting our fundamental civil liberties and ensuring that they are not exploited."

"There are... those who are prepared to exploit the tensions created by this global threat. Racists, bigots and hotheads, as well as those associated with terrorists are prepared to use this opportunity to stir up hate," he told parliament.

The United States passed its own bill on Friday to expand the powers of law enforcement in President George W. Bush's war against terrorism.

The U.S. bill included measures to tap telephones believed to be used by suspected terrorists, prosecute those who knowingly harbour terrorists, and track their use of the Internet to send e-mails.

Earlier this month Blunkett told the annual conference of his party, the Labour Party, that he would radically overhaul Britain's anti-terror laws following a major review in the wake of the attacks on the United States.

France's Prime Minister Lionel Jospin also proposed draft emergency anti-terrorism legislation when he addressed the National Assembly earlier this month.

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.


• UK Home Office
• Office of the French Prime Minister

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