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Britain bans glorification of terrorism

New laws making it illegal to glorify terrorism came into force across Britain on Thursday following months of bitter political debate.
/ Source: Reuters

New laws making it illegal to glorify terrorism came into force across Britain on Thursday following months of bitter political debate.

The Terrorism Act 2006 allows groups or organizations to be banned for glorifying terrorism and distributing publications promoting terrorist acts.

The most controversial element of the act, allowing terror suspects to be detained for up to 28 days instead of 14, will come into force later this year.

The law was drafted after suicide bombers killed 52 commuters on the London transport system last July.

It was given greater urgency earlier this year when demonstrators in London condemned the publication in several European newspapers of cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad by calling for those who insulted Islam to be beheaded.

The demonstrators also praised the July 7 attacks.

But the legislation struggled to pass through parliament as critics said it was too wide-ranging and would be unworkable and an erosion of free speech. The upper House of Lords rejected the bill several times before eventually backing down.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has said the new law was needed to show Britain would not waver in its fight against terrorism. But critics complain it is too vague.

'Public relations by the government'
John Falding’s girlfriend Anat Rosenberg was killed during the July 7 London attacks. He told BBC Radio he thought the new laws were a public relations exercise.

“Most of the (new) provisions are covered by existing legislation and my first thought was that this was just a bit of public relations by the government,” he said.

“Suddenly we have this grand new anti-terrorism act. But then, when I look more closely at the provisions and see how widely they’re drawn, I think there must be another agenda here.

“It’s so catch-all. Ally this to other measures that the government have taken throughout the civil liberties field and I started to get concerned -- and I don’t feel reassured that this is going to help us much in the fight against terrorism.”

The government has seen previous anti-terrorism legislation come unstuck in the courts since tough measures were introduced following the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.

In 2004, Britain’s most senior court ruled emergency powers to detain foreign suspects without trial violated human rights.

On Wednesday, the government was dealt another blow when a London court ruled that “control orders” -- brought in under a new law to replace the discredited powers -- imposed against a British terrorism suspect who wanted to go to fight U.S.-led forces in Iraq breached his human rights as he had not had a fair hearing.