Blair plans new powers to seize assets of terrorists

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The Independent Online
SWEEPING POWERS to seize property belonging to suspected terrorists will be unveiled today as the Government details its security crackdown in the wake of the Omagh bombing.

The new measures will form the centrepiece of an emergency bill to go before a recalled Parliament tomorrow to make it easier to convict members of proscribed terror groups.

Four organisations - the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) and the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) - will be specifically targeted in the bill published today.

By naming the groups in the Bill, the Government hopes to fend off backbench criticism that it is rushing through blanket legislation without detailed consideration.

Ministers insist that the Bill is highly specific and forensic in its nature and will have to be renewed annually to remain on the statute book.

The decision to publish the Bill today was another attempt to placate Labour MPs, some of whom were furious at earlier suggestions that it was to be made public tomorrow morning, only a few hours before they were due to vote.

The Bill will allow suspected members of the Real IRA, Continuity IRA, the INLA and the LVF to be convicted on the uncorroborated evidence of a police officer and will allow courts to take into account any refusal to answer questions.

In an attempt to curb international terrorism, such as the bombings of United States embassies in east Africa, it will also contain measures to ban British-based groups that conspire to commit offences abroad.

Despite the Government's assurances, rebel Labour MPs are still planning to vote for an amendment drawn up by the party's former Northern Ireland spokesman Kevin McNamara.

Mr McNamara's amendment is expected to be tabled today and will claim that the Bill contravenes the European Convention on Human Rights, the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights and the procedures of the newly established International Criminal Court. It will also claim that previous miscarriages of justice, such as the conviction of the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, prove the danger of sweeping police powers.

The Lords will consider the Bill on Thursday and if there are no substantial amendments it will become law.

The Irish government is also pushing through similar anti-terrorist measures this week and both governments want them in place ahead of the visit to Northern Ireland on Thursday by President Bill Clinton.