Blair urged to rethink terror law

This is LONDON, 13/10/05 - News section

A former Labour Cabinet minister and an Anglican bishop were among a broad range of religious and political figures urging Prime Minister Tony Blair to think again about his anti-terrorism proposals.

Around 500 campaigners attended a rally at Central Hall in Westminster to voice concern about the Terrorism Bill, published on Wednesday morning.

The meeting, called by London Mayor Ken Livingstone, brought together a coalition including members of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Scottish National Party, trade unions, civil rights campaigners, Church of England clergy and Muslim groups.

They heard former Health Secretary Frank Dobson denounce as "unacceptable" plans to detain terror suspects without charge for as long as 90 days.

And they heard the Bishop of Coventry, Colin Bennetts, speak of his "deep concern" at the impact of the planned legislation on historic British freedoms and present-day community relations.

Meanwhile, Kate Hudson, the chair of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, warned that clauses in the Bill would effectively threaten life imprisonment to people involved in peaceful protest outside nuclear sites like Faslane or Aldermaston.

Mr Dobson told the meeting that the aim of terrorists was to set one community against another by inducing countries like Britain to give up their commitment to the rule of law and civil liberties.

"You don't prevent terrorism by abandoning age-old freedoms, you don't do it by alienating large groups of people who are law-abiding and sympathetic to the idea that we all ought to be able to live together," he warned.

"You can't have people locked up on the say-so of the police or Government ministers ... you can't have people interrogated for enormously long periods without being charged with an offence."

He added: "The thing I fear most about what the Government is proposing today is that instead of trying to attract people to the cause of preventing terrorism, what they are doing will drive more and more people of a moderate, decent point of view into not being part of the campaign to prevent terrorism. The Prime Minister says the game has changed. Well, he had better change it again, otherwise we will start losing it."

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