Wednesday, August 24, 2005

LONDON — Britain outlined tough new rules yesterday under which “preachers of hate,” who promote or glorify terrorism, will be thrown out of the country or banned from entering it.

“We have a number of names that we are considering at the moment,” and the first deportations could come “very quickly — in the next few days,” Home Secretary Charles Clarke said.

Mr. Clarke itemized a list of “unacceptable behavior” to signal the start of a crackdown that Prime Minister Tony Blair alluded to earlier this month when he said, “Let no one be in any doubt that the rules of the game are changing.”

The list announced by Mr. Clarke includes any act or speech that:

• Foments, justifies or glorifies terrorist violence.

• Seeks to provoke others to terrorist acts.

• Foments other serious criminal actions or attempts to provoke others to commit serious crimes.

• Fosters hatred that threatens to lead to ethnic violence.

Unlike the United States, Britain has no First Amendment and some restrictions on free speech and a free press are enshrined in law. For example, reporters covering public trials are often limited on what they can write or say about court proceedings.

The toughened ground rules announced yesterday target radical Islamic clerics, whom British authorities blame for inspiring the July 7 suicide attacks on London’s transportation system in which 56 persons, including the four bombers, were killed. About 750 others were injured.

Human rights advocates condemned the government’s effort.

Britain is facing a “real and significant” threat from terrorists, and the government and law-enforcement agencies must take countermeasures, Mr. Clarke said.

“That includes tackling those who seek to foster hatred or promote terrorism, sending a strong message that they are not welcome in the UK,” he said.

“These powers are not intended to stifle free speech or legitimate debate about religions or other issues,” Mr. Clarke said. “Britain is rightly proud of its openness and diversity, and we must not allow those driven by extremism of any sort to destroy that tradition.”

Officials said the Blair government’s rules are intended to clarify powers that the home secretary already possesses under Britain’s 1971 Immigration Act.

While Mr. Clarke’s list formalized the rules, the tough new crackdown already had started, with the government’s announcement earlier this month that it intended to deport 10 detained foreign nationals it suspected of posing a threat to national security.

Among the 10 to be deported as soon as authorities can get the paperwork in order is Abu Qatada, a Muslim cleric convicted five years ago in absentia in Jordan and sentenced to 15 years in jail on charges of conspiring to attack American and Israeli tourists.

Mr. Clarke’s Home Office also has already banned Omar Bakri Mohammed from returning to his home in Britain after the Syrian-born cleric said he would not tell police about fellow Muslims who were planning terrorist attacks.

He was last reported at his mother’s home in Lebanon.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission claimed that “much of the reasoning behind the new grounds [for deportation and exclusion] is based on fallacy rather than fact.

“The idea that foreign preachers who don’t speak English are radicalizing British youth who speak nothing but English is absurd,” the commission said.

The government’s policy statement also drew fire from civil liberties groups.

James Welch, legal director for the Liberty rights organization, warned that it failed to answer a key question:

“Will the government’s deportation plans result in suspects being sent to countries with a known record of torture?”

The government says it already has negotiated a “memorandum of understanding” with Jordan, which has agreed that any deportee sent there would not be tortured.

Negotiations on similar pacts already are under way with at least eight other countries.

Manfred Nowak, the United Nations rapporteur on torture, said such agreements with countries with records of human rights abuses was “not an appropriate tool to eradicate this risk.”

But Mr. Clarke reacted angrily to Mr. Nowak’s comments, insisting that the United Nations should pay more attention to the rights of the victims of attacks rather than “simply focusing all the time on the terrorist.”

No one has been arrested in the July 7 attack, but police in Britain and Italy swiftly arrested the four men they think tried but failed to detonate suicide bombs on July 21.

Three of the suspects are still being held in London jail cells. The fourth, British citizen Hamdi Isaac, was arrested in Rome on July 29 and is in the process of being extradited.

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