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U.K.: Blair Details New Plans To Tackle Extremists

Tony Blair (file photo) British Prime Minister Tony Blair has been detailing tough new measures to deport foreigners who advocate violence. The plans come in the wake of last month's London bombings and are designed to make it easier to clamp down on so-called "preachers of hate." It's the latest example of how Europe has awoken to the need for action to control the breeding grounds for extremism on its own soil.

Prague, 5 August 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Britain already has the power to deport individuals deemed a security threat.

But at a press conference today, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said that this power will now be extended in the wake of last month's attacks on London's transport system. Let no one be in any doubt, he said, "The rules of the game are changing."

"Deportation is a decision taken by the home secretary under statute," Blair said. "The new grounds will include fostering hatred, advocating violence to further a person's beliefs, or justifying or validating such violence."

Blair said authorities will draw up a list of extremist websites, bookshops, and organizations, and that involvement with them could serve as a trigger to deport foreign nationals. He also said any asylum seeker involved in terrorist activities would be denied access to British territory.

He said his government will outlaw two Islamic groups, including Hizb ut-Tahrir, an organization active in Central Asia that says it is dedicated to the peaceful creation of an Islamic caliphate. Hizb ut-Tahrir, banned in the Central Asian states, has an office in Britain.

And Blair said he will seek new powers to exclude foreign imams who advocate extremism. "We will consult on a new power to order closure of a place of worship which is used as a center for fomenting extremism and will consult with Muslim leaders in respect of those clerics who are not British citizens, to draw up a list of those not suitable to preach who will be excluded from our country in future," he said.

The new powers will not just target foreigners. Blair said authorities should be able to strip citizenship from naturalized British citizens engaged in extremism. And he said the government will introduce new legislation that will include an offense of glorifying terrorism -- wherever it takes place.

In the past month, Blair has repeatedly spoken of the need to confront "an evil ideology," after the four 7 July suspected suicide bombers were identified as British Muslims.

The measures outlined today come as other European countries struggle to deal with Muslim clerics who preach violence.

French Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to deport any Muslim cleric espousing violence. He said France will not tolerate speech that calls for hate and murder on the pretext that the speech is given in a place of worship.

In the weeks since the London bombings, French police are reported to have rounded up for deportation dozens of speakers accused of fomenting anti-Western feeling -- even naturalized French citizens.

But analysts say this is not a policy that is likely to be universally applied throughout the European Union. Security analyst Christopher Langton, of the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, said there are a host of legal and cultural reasons for that.

"It is very hard I think for governments in democratic societies that uphold freedom of speech, to firstly define 'radical' in this context, and secondly to determine whether or not what they are saying is inflammatory and is directly linked to violence," Langton said.

Langton also cautioned that deportation to a country that could torture or otherwise mistreat a deportee is forbidden by the EU Convention on Human Rights. A member state knowingly undertaking such actions could risk the imposition of sanctions by fellow members.

Meanwhile, the EU is undertaking new steps. In a draft report disclosed last week, the executive European Commission called for members to adopt long-term measures to eradicate radical influence. The report proposes an EU-wide code of conduct for media, including radio, satellite television, and the Internet, designed to deny opportunities for the spread of extremist propaganda. The Internet especially is seen as a means for extremists to incite others to commit terrorist crimes.

The report also says the EU states may have to become more involved in educating foreign Muslim preachers so that they understand European values, and respect them.

(compiled from agency reports)

See also:

Britain Searches For Response To London Bombings

British Police Arrest Four Suspects In London Bombings