Letter: How phone tap evidence could be used in terrorism trials

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am pleased that there are indications that the Home Secretary wants to reconsider his proposals to impose control orders on terrorist suspects, without charge or trial. These proposals threaten the freedoms of us all.

One of the main concerns is that many people could find themselves falsely accused of terrorism, with no opportunity to prove their innocence. We saw in the campaign against IRA terrorism in the 1970s how many innocent people, such as the Guildford Four and the Birmingham Six, were given heavy sentences for crimes they had no part in. How much more likely is the Government to make such mistakes with these control orders, when they will not be required to present any evidence in a properly constituted court. The accused will not even be told of what they are accused - so they have no means to refute allegations. The consequences for the individuals concerned could be severe - possibly house arrest for life or restrictive orders which cause them to lose their livelihood.

The Government's grounds for imposing control orders will be "suspicion of involvement in terrorism". Suspicion, without having to submit evidence, is in the eye of the beholder. Anyone who is overheard making a misinterpreted remark, anyone collecting for a small charity working abroad, anyone who travels off the beaten track, could be accused of supporting terrorism and given a lifetime's house arrest. I find this far more worrying than the terrorism it is supposed to combat.

Dr STEPHEN LEAH

York

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