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UK presses ahead with new sweeping terror legislation
Home Secretary Charles Clarke Wednesday published the government's controversial proposals to combat terrorism despite widespread opposition.
"The recent terror attacks in London and elsewhere make it absolutely clear that we must adapt to be able to meet the changing nature of the terror threat facing us," Clarke said.
"It is vital that our law enforcement agencies have the tools they need to combat new and emerging terror threats, as the nature and tactics of terrorism evolves and changes," he said when introducing the new terror bill to parliament.
The bill includes outlawing the encouragement or glorification of terrorism, create a new offence to tackle extremist bookshops who disseminate radical material and to make it illegal to give or receive terrorist training or attending a 'terrorist training camp.' A new offence is also being created to catch those planning or preparing to commit terrorist acts, while the police are being given powers to extend the maximum limit of pre-charge detention in terrorist cases from two weeks to three months.
Further measures to proscribe non-violent organizations under the country's existing Terrorism Act 2000 are being made by redefining the grounds to include groups which glorify terrorism.
An amendment is also expected later to include controversial powers to close mosques, which fail to comply with an order to prevent them from being used to forment extremism, whether or not a prosecution is successful.
Clarke further announced that he would bring forward other measures in the Immigration and Nationality Bill to strengthen the UK's ability to deny asylum to terrorists and make it easier to remove British citizenship and deport foreign nationals.
He argued that the terrorist threat facing the UK is "real and significant" and said the Government is determined to do "all it can to protect our citizens from groups who would try to destroy our society, our way of life and our freedoms."
"Clearly, we must strike a careful balance between the rights of individuals and the protection of society. But we are operating in an environment where we must do all we can to protect our way of life from those who would try to destroy it through violence and fear," the Home Secretary told MPs.
The new Terrorism Bill builds on a succession of previous legislation that began when Labour first came to power in 1997, during which there has been record levels of investment in policing and a doubling of the capacity of the Security Service.
The government had maintained that it wanted to reach a wide as possible consensus on the new measures and went through a period of consultation with opposition parties that also included setting up Muslim working groups to offer advice.
But many of the measures have been strongly criticized, including from London mayor Ken Livingstone, who has joined a new cross-party coalition to oppose some of the extreme proposals.
Muslim leaders have also criticized the consultation as a public relations exercise and have warned that the government's strategy should be based upon a judicial inquiry into July's London bombings, which is being resisted by ministers.
Press reports also suggested that there are even differences within the government over the new measures, including between Prime Minister Tony Blair and the Home Secretary.
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