- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 11, 2005

LONDON — The crackdown on “preachers of hate” promised by Prime Minister Tony Blair began in earnest yesterday with the arrests of 10 foreign-born Muslims, including al Qaeda’s purported ambassador, followed by an announcement that Britain would attempt to deport them.

The tough new policy generally goes beyond what has been done in the United States on the deportation of terrorists. The U.S. Supreme Court has imposed fairness standards under the due process law.

On orders from Home Secretary Charles Clarke, four police task forces, working with the Immigration Service, apprehended the 10 in a series of morning raids across Britain and sent them to two prisons. The government finalized the legal maneuvering to kick them out of the country.

“The circumstances of our national security have changed,” Mr. Clarke said. “It is vital that we act against those who threaten it.”

The raids came days after Mr. Blair said, “The rules of the game are changing” and announced a raft of tough counterterrorism measures in the wake of the July 7 suicide attacks on the London transport system that killed 52 persons.

Mr. Blair said he intends to extend the government’s power to deport and exclude foreigners who encourage terrorism and that he is ready to amend human rights laws to make deportations more “straightforward” — meaning faster.

The government refused to identify any of the 10 detainees, but Gareth Peirce, an attorney for radical Muslim preacher Abu Qatada, also known as Sheik Omar Abu Omar, told reporters that his Jordanian client was among them.

Britain has said in court papers that Qatada, 44, often described as al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s “spiritual ambassador” in Europe, is a “truly dangerous individual.”

British officials say he was an inspiration for Mohamed Atta, leader of the September 11 hijackers.

Qatada’s name is among those on a U.S. list of “designated global terrorist individuals.”

Mr. Clarke’s announcement of the arrests yesterday gave a clear indication of the new tough line that the Blair government, which had been accused of failing to act against so-called “preachers of hate,” is taking.

“In accordance with my powers to deport individuals whose presence in the U.K. is not conducive to the public good for reasons of national security,” Mr. Clarke said, “the Immigration Service has today detained 10 foreign nationals who I believe pose a threat to national security.”

In the United States, authorities can pursue the arrests of foreign-born people on immigration violations, although a 1953 Supreme Court ruling holds that they “may be expelled only after proceedings conforming to traditional standards of fairness encompassed in due process of law.”

Salaam Al-Maryati, director of the Muslim Public Affairs Council in Los Angeles, said he knew of cases in which Muslim clerics had been deported.

“It was clear that the U.S. government was not satisfied with these imams’ records,” Mr. Al-Maryati said.

“They were concerned with these imams’ backgrounds and statements, and so they were expelled as a result. … Since they were noncitizens, the argument was that the Constitution does not cover them.”

Justice Department spokesman John. A. Nowacki said the U.S. government fully investigates any credible threat against the United States, but he declined to comment on whether the British policy could be applied here.

“I’m not going to speculate. I’m not going to get into hypotheticals,” Mr. Nowacki said.

Qatada was described as the most high-profile of 12 foreign nationals arrested in Britain after the September 11 attacks.

Britain’s highest court, the House of Lords, ordered him and other security suspects released in March on grounds that their human rights had been violated.

Jordanian authorities have convicted Qatada in absentia for involvement in a series of explosions and terror plots and sentenced him to life in prison.

Under British law, foreign nationals can be deported only to countries that have promised not to torture or execute them, and Jordan has given such assurances to Britain.

The Home Office confirmed that similar deals are being sought with nine other countries, including Algeria, Lebanon, Egypt and Tunisia.

In a related development, Lebanese officials said yesterday that they had arrested Omar Bakri, the militant Islamic cleric who is being investigated in Britain on charges of hate speech.

Bakri, who lives in London and has praised al Qaeda and terrorists, including the September 11 hijackers, reportedly was visiting his mother in Beirut.

In London, the Foreign Office said Bakri’s detention was not connected to the arrests yesterday in Britain.

Guy Taylor contributed to this report in Washington.

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