LONDON (AFP) – The glorification of terrorism became a crime in Britain as a series of measures drawn up by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government following the London bombings last year came into force.
The Terrorism Act 2006 also outlaws the distribution of terrorist publications and creates new offences of undertaking terrorism training and the preparation of or planning an attack.
Banning the encouragement of terrorism has been a key plank in a push by Blair to give police and prosecutors tougher tools to fight terrorism in the wake of the July 7, 2005, attacks on three London subway trains and a bus.
Fifty-six people died, including four Islamist suicide bombers, in what was the biggest single violent loss of life on British soil since World War II.
Blair has taken the issue of glorification so seriously that he used a speech at the United Nations General Assembly last September to appeal to other nations to outlaw those who praise or celebrate acts of terrorism.
Despite his zeal, the provision met stiff opposition from the opposition Conservatives and Liberal Democrats as well as the House of Lords — Britain’s unelected upper chamber — as it snaked its way through parliament.
Citing civil rights concerns, they attacked the measure as too vague and potentially harmful to freedom of speech. Opponents also argued that current laws do the job just as well.
Blair has said the law would allow the police to take “far stronger action” against people who indirectly incite terrorism.
He added that it would enable action to be taken against people with placards who glorified the July 7 bombers at protests in London in February against the cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed.
Another controversial part of the legislation — a plan to double the length of time police can detain terrorist suspects to 28 days — will come into force later following consultation with police chief constables.
Last November, Blair suffered his first parliamentary defeat since coming to power in 1997 after MPs rejected a bid to increase the maximum period security suspects can be held without charge from 14 to 90 days.
MPs eventually backed the 28-day limit.
The anti-terror laws come into force a day after a High Court judge ruled that another government measure to clamp down on security suspects was “conspicuously unfair” and breached their human rights.
Judge Jeremy Sullivan was referring to Britain’s system of so-called control orders to restrict the movement of such suspects.