Socialist Worker

Innocent hit by the terror laws

Issue No. 1882

THE TERROR laws introduced by New Labour are being used to target ordinary people.

Some 8,000 people have been stopped under the new anti-terrorism powers. Yet only 170 people have been charged as a result. Just two of those have been convicted. Both were for possession of a small amount of cannabis, which hardly amounts to a 'terrorist threat'.

Those figures came from Mark Littlewood of the civil rights watchdog Liberty. He was speaking at a demonstration in London last Saturday against the US and Britain imprisoning people without trial.

Mark explained how 'in many ways the so called war on terrorism is a greater threat to our freedoms than the 'terrorism networks' we are told to fear'.

He added, 'To believe the fiction that Britain is in a state of war, with people afraid to go about their normal lives, is to allow the government to bring in ever more draconian measures.'

Of the 500 people who have actually been arrested under the special anti-terror laws, only five people have been charged. Many are arrested in a blaze of publicity only to be released weeks later without charge. These include two groups of men from the Middle East in north London and the north east of England.

The measures are ripping through immigrant and Muslim communities in Britain.

The Labour government's Prevention of Terrorism Act in 1974 had a similar effect. It was supposedly in response to the IRA's bombings. But many Irish people in Britain suffered routine harassment from the police, who seized the chance to target 'potential terrorists'.

Over 95 percent of those arrested under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, passed in 1974, were never charged. Those who were included people like the Birmingham Six and Guildford Four, who were innocent but spent many years in prison.

The law also made some people feel wary of getting involved in any protest activity for fear of being lifted under the terror laws.

The aim of the police, MI5 and governments was to intimidate large sections of Irish people in Britain from any political activity opposing the British army's role in Northern Ireland.

'There's a similar aim today when it comes to the systematic harassment of Muslims at a time when there is growing political involvement against Bush and Blair,' says the Muslim Parliament.

Aamer Anwar is a civil rights lawyer in Glasgow who represents innocent men detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act. He told Socialist Worker, 'Last December there were coordinated raids in London, Edinburgh and Glasgow. People had their doors kicked in at 6am.

'Those brought to Govan station in Glasgow were questioned for seven days by the anti-terrorism squad. Everyone assumed the men were guilty. Words like Al Qaida, asylum seeker and 11 September got linked up.

'The definition of terrorism is so wide anything you do can be construed as conspiring to organise terrorist attacks. If you have nails in your house, or a bag of sugar, it's enough to brand you a terrorist. None of the men picked up had any criminal convictions. My client had a wife and four children, another man was only 18 years old. They were refused bail.

'I spoke to Paddy Hill of the Birmingham Six. He said it was just like what happened after the Birmingham pub bombings in the 1970s. They government just wanted results. They didn't care who got picked up.

'Then last Tuesday the crown announced there would be no further proceedings against the men. But this isn't good enough-we want a declaration of innocence. There is still a whispering campaign against them.'

Disgracefully the police are still treating the freed men as suspects and have them under round the clock surveillance.


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News
Sat 20 Dec 2003, 00:00 GMT
Issue No. 1882
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