Clarke bans 15 Islamic groups over terror links

Click to follow
Indy Politics

Many are linked to al-Qa'ida and some are suspected of having supporters living in this country. They include Ansar Al Islam and Ansar Al Sunna, which are linked to the Iraqi insurgency, the Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain, accused of plotting last year's Madrid bomb blasts, and organisations that back violent revolution in Kashmir, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Somalia and Uzbekistan.

Tony Blair and Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, will today underline their determination to push through an Anti-Terrorism Bill, due to be published tomorrow, by the end of the year.

Amid criticism that some of the moves are draconian, the Government is braced for a struggle to win support for some of its most controversial provisions in the House of Lords. §The list of organisations banned by Mr Clarke will almost double the number of Islamic extremist groups outlawed in this country, reflecting concern that al-Qa'ida is breaking down into an ever more diffuse network of terrorist groups sympathetic to its aims.

The Home Secretary said proscription was intended to send out the message that violent attacks would not be tolerated anywhere in the world. Being a member of a banned organisation under the Terrorism Act 2000 can be punished by 10 years in jail.

Mr Clarke said: "Recent events in London and elsewhere in the world have shown all too clearly the threat posed by global terrorism has not gone away. The attacks of 7 July and 21 July have served as a stark reminder of the need to maintain a vigorous approach to dealing with terrorists and their supporters."

The bans are set to come into force on Friday after short debates in the Commons and Lords.

Mr Clarke also indicated the Islamic organisations Hizb ut-Tahir and al-Muhajiroun, both of which deny being involved in terrorism, would be banned within months. They will be caught under a new offence of " glorifying" terrorism contained in the new legislation.

The most contentious measure will be a proposal to allow the detention of terrorist suspects for up to 90 days without charge. The move has been requested by the police, but faces strong opposition from opposition parties, lawyers and civil rights groups.

Although Mr Clarke last week defended the plan, Downing Street showed signs of flexibility on the issue yesterday. The Prime Minister's official spokes- man stressed the powers would only be used in "exceptional" cases.

He said ministers still hoped that they could reach agreement with the opposition parties on the new measure, adding: "In terms of trying to get a consensus, we are genuine about that."

Last night, Mr Blair also hinted of a possible compromise over the 90-day plan. He told a meeting of the Parliamentary Labour Party that he was prepared to consult with other parties on the issue. One MP said: "He certainly didn't give the impression of being willing to die in the ditch on 90 days." Shami Chakrabarti, the director of Liberty, said she was worried that the 90-day proposal was "the first bid in an auction to determine the amount of time a defendant can be held when the true debate is whether it should be extended at all".

In the Commons yesterday, the Tories claimed that ministers had taken " no effective action" to stop terrorist suspects moving in and out of Britain at will.

David Davis, the shadow Home Secretary, complained there were just 900 officers in place, 500 fewer than recommended by a report two years ago.

He said that the inadequacy of controls was demonstrated when Hussain Osman, a terrorist suspect from the failed bombings on 21 July, "blithely left the country via Waterloo station without being checked at all".