MPs plan revolt against house arrest plan

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MPs are planning a parliamentary revolt over the Government's "chilling" measures to place the families and friends of suspected terrorists under house arrest.

MPs are planning a parliamentary revolt over the Government's "chilling" measures to place the families and friends of suspected terrorists under house arrest.

Charles Clarke said yesterday that the terror threat faced by Britain meant it was necessary to restrict the freedom of contact, association and movement of the families, friends and associates of suspected terrorists. Under the proposals, relatives and other associates of suspects could be searched every time they enter their homes or be banned from using telephones or the internet, the Home Secretary said.

The measures are a direct response to the House of Lords which last month ruled unlawful the indefinite detention of 11 terror suspects in Belmarsh and other high-security prisons. Lawyers for the detainees are to make a fresh attempt to free them on Monday when the Special Immigration Appeals Commission holds bail hearings. They will say they should be freed because Mr Clarke has accepted the Law Lords' ruling.

And the Pentagon is continuing to claim that four Britons released from Guantanamo Bay still pose a real security threat. Moazzam Begg, Feroz Abbasi, Martin Mubanga and Richard Belmar were freed without charge the day after they were flown home. The Metropolitan Police accepted there was insufficient evidence to hold them under the Terrorism Act. It is understood that the men are now considering financial offers from the media for interviews.

But ministers have not ruled out the possibility that the men could be made subject to further restrictions on their liberty after the legislation has been passed by Parliament which could be next month.

Neither the Conservatives nor the Liberal Democrats have decided how they will vote on the measures and say they are waiting to study the details. But Mark Oaten, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, said he was "extremely concerned" at the threat to include families. "I'm worried Charles Clarke is sounding over-keen on the use of control orders. These shouldn't be treated as anti-social behaviour orders." Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights pressure group Liberty, said: "In a country of suspects not citizens, even the children will not be presumed innocent. At least the Home Secretary is beginning to honestly set out the full, chilling logic of his new proposals."

Robert Marshall-Andrews, Labour MP for Medway, said: "I think there will be a narrow majority in the Commons if the Government attempt to push it through and it will fail in the Lords. If they do, there will be one of the most sizeable rebellions in Labour ranks, not least because it will be electoral suicide."

But Mr Clarke warned this week: "There are serious people and serious organisations trying to destroy our society. We are in a state of emergency. Protecting national security must come first. Just because somebody's wife wants to chat with her friends about going shopping, that's not therefore a reason to let somebody cause a bomb explosion at Bluewater."

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