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7 Algerians Held in British Security Operation


Britain's top law and order official, Home Secretary Charles Clarke, has outlined proposals for new anti-terrorism legislation. Meanwhile, seven Algerian men have been rounded up in raids in London and Manchester.

The seven Algerians are being held under the 1971 Immigration Act.

Sources close to the Home Office say some of those in detention are among eight men who were found not guilty last April of any involvement in a plot to develop and distribute the deadly poison ricin in the country.

Home Secretary Charles Clarke says, although those rounded up Thursday are not convicted of any crime, he wants them sent out of the country.

"I took the decision to seek to deport these individuals because of the national security threats that they pose to this country on the basis of detailed submissions from the police and the security services. I think it is right to go down that course, if I believe there is such a threat."

Vigorous appeals would likely be mounted, and the deportation process could take years.

The action has come on the same day that Mr. Clarke said he would be trying to find cross-party agreement on toughened new anti-terrorism laws. The Home Secretary wants to see new charges for inciting and glorifying terrorism and he wants to lengthen the time suspects can be held without being charged, from the current two-week period, to three months.

Many members of the main opposition Conservative and Liberal Democratic parties and even some members of his own ruling Labor party say that is too long. They maintain there are enough laws currently on the books that can effectively be used to deal with those accused of being involved in security offenses.

The answer they say lies not in new laws, but in getting the police and intelligence services to do a better job.

Speaking on British television, Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the London-based civil rights organization, Liberty, says the three-month imprisonment plan that Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair would like to see enacted, would be a disaster in terms of winning any cooperation from the Muslim community.

"That, in my view would be incredibly counterproductive to the world of the police and security services," she said. "If they are to engage with the communities, who may have intelligence to help them, let us remember that three months is the equivalent of actually serving a six-month custodial sentence. And Sir Ian Blair and others are now suggesting that that is how long you ought to be detained, without even being charged by a police officer. That is pretty serious indeed. A new internment, I would say."

Prime Minister Tony Blair says the July bombings in London have "changed the rules of the game." That view has sparked a debate in the country regarding, which, if any, civil rights might have to be sacrificed in the name of toughened security.

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