New anti-terror measures proposed by UK leadership

Sunday, Jul 17, 2005,Page 7

Muslim leaders, scholars and imams sign a letter condemning the July 7 terrorist attacks in the British capital, following their meeting at Regent's park mosque in central London, on Friday. The 22 scholars met at London's largest mosque, saying the perpetrators had violated the Koran, Islam's holy book, by killing innocent civilians and that no one should consider them martyrs.

A new package of counter-terrorism measures which will be proposed by the British government tomorrow would outlaw those who provide or attend terrorist training courses in Britain or abroad and make it a criminal offense to describe those who carry out suicide bombings as "martyrs."

The centerpiece of a counter-terrorism bill will be the new crime of "acts preparatory to terrorism," which ministers said on Friday would make it easier for the police and security services to intervene when a terrorist operation was being planned. The package will be discussed in cross-party talks at Downing Street next week.

The details of the measures were outlined by Home Secretary Charles Clarke, in letters to the shadow home secretary, David Davis, and the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, Mark Oaten, in the hope of securing a political consensus behind the package.

Home Office Minister Hazel Blears said that work on the measures had begun before July 7. She hoped the existing timetable for new anti-terrorist legislation -- including the promised review of the government's controversial "control orders"on suspected terrorists -- would be met and that it would be on the statute book by next summer.

Clarke said the new offense of "acts preparatory to terrorism"would cover providing or receiving training in the use of hazardous substances and in other methods or techniques for terrorist purposes. "

"This covers training provided or received in the UK and abroad,"he said.

While the new offense will not be retrospective, it is designed to end the flow of British recruits to terrorist training camps and schools in Pakistan and Iraq.

Evidence that somebody was involved in terrorist training could include the discovery of bomb-making instructions, attempts to acquire certain chemicals and accessing terrorist-related Web sites.

The creation of the offense of indirect incitement to terrorism could prove the most troublesome for ministers. They have already been forced to modify the language of the offense from "glorifying or condoning" terrorism, because of fears that it would not stand up in court. Blears said that it was already an offense to incite someone directly to commit a violent or criminal act and they now wanted to widen it to indirect incitement to terrorism. She said prosecutions would not be limited to those authorized by the director of public prosecutions alone.

The government also intends to bring forward a battery of minor amendments to the security services' powers, including new rules on proscribing terrorist groups so that they cannot evade the ban by simply changing their names.