- The Washington Times - Friday, March 11, 2005

LONDON — Prime Minister Tony Blair won the support of Parliament yesterday for a new anti-terrorism law that will allow the government to act swiftly against eight foreign terror suspects who have been granted bail.

The House of Lords approved new powers to order house arrest, impose curfews and use electronic tagging without trial after the government made concessions to end a bitter parliamentary deadlock just three days before similar legislation was to have expired.

The Prevention of Terrorism Bill, which also allows the government to ban terror suspects from meeting certain people or traveling and to restrict their access to the Internet or telephone, later received the formality of royal assent to become law.

The new control orders are likely to be used first against the eight foreign nationals, including radical Muslim cleric Abu Qatada, who is suspected of having ties with al Qaeda.

The men have spent three years in a high-security prison without being charged but were granted bail at a special commission in London yesterday. They had been moved to a detention center pending the results of the parliamentary debate.

Justice Duncan Ouseley had set strict bail conditions for them, including a nighttime curfew, restrictions on whom they can meet and on their access to mobile phones and the Internet. Qatada also was banned from preaching at mosques or leading prayers.

The law under which the men were detained expires on Monday. The government urgently wanted its new powers cleared by Parliament and had warned that without new legislation the men could have been freed.

Under the new law, the government must apply to a judge to issue house arrest orders, but in an emergency a government minister can immediately order the lesser measures and seek court approval within seven days.

Parliament was deadlocked for almost two days over the bill, which will apply to both foreign nationals and Britons.

The Conservatives said it would infringe on civil liberties and had demanded a “sunset clause” that would require the law to expire after a year. The government refused, saying such an amendment would send a message that Britain was soft on terrorism.

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