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Blair baton on extremists - UK shakes off qualms about deportation

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By AMIT ROY in London
  • Published 5.08.05

London, Aug. 5: New measures to resist indoctrination of young Muslims by extremist groups were unveiled today by Prime Minister Tony Blair, who said radical websites would be closed, firebrand clerics thrown out of the country and the human rights legislation amended, if necessary, to make all this easier.

The British people, so far tolerant, were fed up after two attacks on the London transport system and wanted him to act, Blair indicated.

Blair’s statement came after the al Qaida second-in-command, the Egyptian Ayman al-Zawahiri, warned Blair that his “policies brought you destruction in central London and will bring you more destruction”.

London has been flooded with 6,000 police personnel at underground stations but this level of policing can only be temporary. Tourism, it was reported today in a city which is heavily dependent on visitors, is down by a third.

Yesterday, President George W. Bush said US troops would not withdraw. Today, it was Blair’s turn.

“These very self-same people who were making those remarks yesterday are the people supporting the killing of wholly innocent people in Iraq, wholly innocent people in Afghanistan, innocent people anywhere in the world who want to live by the rules of democracy,” he said.

Blair went out of his way to emphasise that his measures would be taken in consultation with the Muslim community and that it was as much in their interests that extremists be curbed.

According to the Prime Minister, troublesome clerics would be deported, which was not easy before because they were in danger of being tortured or even executed by their home countries.

Here Blair explained: “The circumstances of our national security have now self-evidently changed and we believe we can get the necessary assurances from the countries to which we will return the deportees against their being subject to torture or ill-treatment.”

He added that the government was prepared to amend the Human Rights Act in respect of interpretation by the European Convention on Human Rights if legal obstacles arise.

The new law prohibiting “condoning or glorifying terrorism” would apply anywhere, not just in the UK. Anyone who had anything to do with terrorism would automatically be refused asylum, he added.

Metropolitan Police chief Ian Blair said the same thing today but in more robust language. “One of the difficulties has been this idea about how can we deport people to places where they may suffer oppression. Well, I think the public mood is shifting. I’m sorry, but this is England, Britain, and we don’t want this fomenting of terrorism to go on.”

His namesake, the Prime Minister, revealed that existing powers to strip people of their British nationality if they act against the interests of this country could be extended to apply to naturalised citizens involved in extremism.

A joint commission would be set up with Muslim leaders to take action in areas where people were “inadequately integrated”.

There will be a new power to order the closure of a place of worship used for “fomenting terrorism”.

Muslim leaders would be asked to compile a list of people “not fit to preach”, while another list would be drawn up by the foreign office and the home office to exclude people “whose activities and views pose a threat to UK security”.

The Prime Minister was criticised by Shami Chakrabarti, director of rights group Liberty, who said: “It seems he no longer has much truck for fundamental human rights at all. He’s talking quite actively about deporting people to face torture around the world.”