'Chaotic and cruel' release of terror suspects criticised

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The Government has come under fire for the "cruel and chaotic" way 10 terror suspects were released into the community last week.

The Government has come under fire for the "cruel and chaotic" way 10 terror suspects were released into the community last week.

As recriminations flew about the new control orders agreed by the Commons and the Lords, Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, also claimed that Britons faced less risk from al-Qa'ida than from bird flu.

And following a warning from police that they could not guarantee the safety of the men, new orders protecting their anonymity were granted by the High Court. One former detainee had to be taken to the psychiatric wing of a London hospital as police did not have the keys to a secure flat.

Another was released without money or food and moved into an empty flat, while a third is being held at Colnbrook detention centre, suggesting he may be about to be deported.

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, a human rights organisation, said: "The Home Office has been chaotic and cruel in the way it has released these men. Even when it is releasing them it appears to be doing it in the most shambolic, and therefore cruellest, way possible."

The new order prohibits the publication of any details that could identify the detainees other than Abu Qatada, Djamel Ajouaou and Abu Rideh, whose names are already in the public domain. The order also prohibits the publication of the men's addresses and names of family members. The order applies to photographs, drawings or likenesses made of the detainees or any family living with them.

Mr Livingstone insisted there was no prospect of a second 11 September and the danger was now less than during the IRA's heyday. "I understand what the Government is trying to do," he told BBC1's Breakfast with Frost. "It recognises if there is a threat of terrorism it is best to detain someone rather than wait until they are on the way to the site with the bomb.

"My big worry about the legislation though is you rely on the advice of the security service. I have got a bit of respect for MI6 and the James Bond types, but I have to say all my experience of MI5, the snoopers, is that they are so often wrong."

The current terror threat was "a bit less than the threat we had during the IRA", Mr Livingstone said. "There is always the danger that we will fail and someone will get through," he continued. "We do not believe there is the chance of another 11 September ... The danger comes from two or three disaffected men doing something more like a car bomb ... We are more at risk of dying from bird flu than we are from being blown up by any terrorist."

The control order measures finally passed into law on Friday night after a 30-hour parliamentary stand-off between Tony Blair and Tory peers.

Cabinet ministersaccused Michael Howard, the Tory leader, of risking national security for party advantage during the protracted wrangle. But Lord Tebbit, a former Tory chairman whose wife was crippled in the 1984 IRA Brighton bombing, said he was sickened by Labour attempts to portray the Conservatives as soft on terror.

"I feel a sensation of nausea that a man so detached from reality and truth could be the Prime Minister of this country," he said. Mr Blair was "making no move" on republican terrorism despite knowing the identities of the Omagh bombers and Robert McCartney's killers, he said.

The Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, attacked Mr Blair for failing to protect civil liberties. "On two occasions now at Prime Minister's Questions he has explicitly gone out of his way to say that if there was a terrorist outrage no one would be talking about civil liberties. That's quite a remarkable statement for any British prime minister of any political persuasion to say.

"I don't think Margaret Thatcher would have said that at the height of the IRA bombing campaign in London, never mind in Northern Ireland itself. I don't think other prime ministers would have said that either; that rather alarms me."

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