Daily archives: October 29, 2005

Hazel Blears responds to Craig Murray’s charge that she made false claims to Parliament

From The Guardian:

Craig Murray makes a number of accusations about me (Hazel Blears made a claim I know to be false, October 19) over the decision to proscribe the Islamic Jihad Union. Readers will understand why I cannot provide full details of all the intelligence available on the IJU or the nature of intelligence operations in central Asia. What I can say is that the home secretary had the full intelligence picture, as presented by UK intelligence agencies, available to him when he took the decision to recommend that the IJU should be proscribed. The decision to proscribe the IJU – and 14 other organisations – was endorsed by both houses of parliament last week with not one member of either house voting against the order.

To assist parliament in coming to a decision, we provided a brief account of the activities of the IJU, including that in July 2004 an IJU cell mounted suicide attacks against the US and Israeli embassies in Tashkent. These attacks were condemned by the UN secretary general. The IJU has claimed responsibility for a number of terrorist crimes. The IJU is proscribed by the UN and I believe there was a clear case for the UK to take similar action.

Hazel Blears MP

Home Office minister

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MPs debate the Terrorism Bill – be careful what you say!

Below we post two excerpts from the parliamentary debate on the second reading of the proposed terrorism bill that took place on the 26th October. First, Alan Simpson, Labour MP for Nottingham South, raises the example of what would transpire if MPs questioned the evidence on a proscribed terrorist organisation. Secondly, John Denham describes how someone vandalising a statute of the President of Uzbekistan could be guilty of terrorism under the proposed UK legislation!

For the full Hansards transcript go here

Alan Simpson: The hon. Gentleman will recall the debate in the House two weeks ago about the extension of the list of proscribed organisations. Included on that list was the Islamic Jihad Union in Uzbekistan. Many Members raised concerns about the inclusion of that organisation and, a matter of days later, the former UK ambassador to Uzbekistan wrote in The Guardian that there was no basis for substantiating the allegations that had been made about it, that they had come from the Uzbek Government and that we had no embedded intelligence sources of our own in the region. Does the hon. Gentleman accept that the provisions relating to encouragement in the Bill would place hon. Members in an invidious position, in that, if we sought to defend an organisation that had been improperly proscribed as a terrorist organisation, we would be committing a terrorist offence under the encouragement provisions?

Mr. Denham : I am grateful to my right hon. Friend, who makes a powerful case for legislation to deal with the terrorist threat that we face, but does he not acknowledge that this legislation goes far wider than that? It is a question not of someone in this country supporting an action taken somewhere else in the world, but of anyone anywhere in the world supporting any type of violence. If an Uzbek living in Uzbekistan supported the destruction of a statue as a symbol of opposition to the tyrannical regime in his country, he would be guilty of an offence under clause 17, and liable to prosecution and seven years’ imprisonment, should he come to this country. Is it really our intention to do the dirty work for some of the most oppressive and tyrannical regimes in the world?

Mr. Clarke: As my right hon. Friend knows, it is not our intention to do anybody’s dirty work; rather, we intend to do our best to protect this country’and, indeed, the world’against terrorism as a means of political change. All our constituents will want us to do that as best we can. That said, I concede, as I have to my right hon. Friend privately and in his Committee, that we have to look at these definitions in order to avoid such questions arising. I say again’

Finally, a quote from Charles Clarke on the proposed offence of the glorification of terrorism:

The encouragement offence also includes glorification, which was a manifesto commitment. After we published our initial proposals, it was clear that there was considerable unease about the proposal for a self-contained offence of glorification of terrorism. In the spirit of consensus, we have now responded to that concern. Accordingly, glorification is now an offence only if the person who glorifies terrorism believes, or has reasonable grounds for believing, that the remarks will be understood as an incitement to terrorist acts.

Ok, thats incredibly clear and not at all prone to misinterpretation or abuse. Nice work Mr Clarke.

Further, in summing up at the end of the debate, Hazel Blears simply ignored Simpson’s point from above completely. The government made no attempt in the debate to reply to Craig Murray’s point about the fake nature of the so-called March 2004 suicide bombings.

See above for Blear’s response to the criticism from Murray, which she issued in the press.

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Definitions of terrorism according to Charles Clarke?

Here we post two questions raised during the hearings of ‘The Joint Committee on Human Rights Counter-Terrorism Policy and Human Rights’ on Monday 24 October 2005. The Home Secretary Charles Clarke responds to Baroness Stern. Just what is terrorism according to Mr Clarke, but more importantly, will the ludicrously loose definition be allowed to stand in the new legislation?

Q12 Baroness Stern: Can I ask you about the definition of terrorism in the Terrorism Act 2000 which is very wide ranging? Any violence, including damage to property, designed to influence the policy of any government anywhere in the world. That being the definition, is it your view that anybody who advocates political violence in any state, no matter how brutal or repressive, will be committing the offence of encouraging terrorism? For example, if somebody in Uzbekistan, for example, said, “Let’s go and pull down the posters of the repressive president” that is presumably damage to property. In your view, is that advocating political violence?

Mr Clarke: No. I do not think pulling down posters is political violence. Blowing up a bus, to give that example again, is political violence. I agree with you — this is where I concede a point to Lord Lester in the question he asked — that the question of where on this spectrum between tearing down a poster and blowing up a bus a particular act falls can in some circumstances be difficult. I do not think it is as difficult as it seems. To suggest that tearing down a poster is terrorism simply would not be substantiated by anybody in any circumstances. To suggest that blowing up a bus is not terrorism, on the other hand, would also be very difficult to argue. Though I agree it is possible in this great range of potential acts that one could conceivably describe to say there are some in the middle of this range where there could be an area of difficulty of judgment, I do not think most acts would have any difficulty of definition at all.

Q13 Baroness Stern: Do you consider that the broadness of this offence — it may not be tearing down posters but suppose it is breaking the windows in the Ministry of the Interior — is going to stop people discussing and debating what to do about trying to restore democracy in oppressive regimes?

Mr Clarke: In most cases it is a question of establishing rather than restoring democracy in the world at the moment because the striking feature of the world over my lifetime has been that, over whole swathes of the world, eastern and central Europe, southern Europe, South Africa, southern Africa, Latin America, central America, a democratic regime is now far more commonplace than was the case 35 years ago. I certainly think it is perfectly reasonable to have discussions about the right way to make change in any given circumstance but then you say to me what is my attitude to inciting changes in terrorist methods and my attitude is against it. I think the law should be against it.

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