It’s about time:
LONDON – Foreigners who preach hatred, sponsor violence or belong to extremist groups could be deported from Britain under strict new measures that Prime Minister Tony Blair announced Friday, nearly a month after suicide bombers killed 52 people on London’s transit system.
Membership in extremist Islamic groups such as Hizb-ut-Tahrir would become a crime under the new measures. The group, which advocates the creation of an Islamic state in Central Asia, already is outlawed in several countries.
Story Continues Below
Blair said the government also would compile a list of Web sites, bookshops and centers that incite hatred and violence. British nationals involved with such organizations could face strict penalties. Foreign nationals could be deported, he said.
“They come here and they play by our rules and our way of life,” Blair said at his monthly news conference. “If they don’t, they are going to have to go.”
The government would hold a one-month consultation on new grounds for excluding and deporting people from the United Kingdom, he said.
Britain’s ability to deport foreign nationals has been hampered by human rights legislation. As a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights, Britain is not allowed to deport people to a country where they may face torture or death.
The British government has been seeking assurances from several countries _ including Algeria, Tunisia and Egypt _ for suspects to be protected against inhumane treatment if deported. The government has already reached an agreement with Jordan.
Britain was seeking assurances from about 10 countries, and Blair said he had constructive talks with leaders of Algeria and Lebanon on Thursday. The government was prepared to amend human rights legislation if legal challenges arose from the new deportation measures, he said.
Blair said anyone linked with terrorism could be refused asylum, and the new measures make it easier for the government to strip extremists of dual citizenship.
The government also was considering a request from police and security services to hold terror suspects for three months without charge. The current time limit is 14 days.
A spokesman for Hizb ut Tahrir Britain, Imran Waheed, said Blair’s comments were “most unjust,” and the group would fight any ban through the courts.
“Hizb ut Tahrir is a nonviolent political party,” he said. “Our members are all for political expression, not for violence.”
Blair said the government will consult with Muslim leaders on how to close mosques “used as a center for fomenting extremism” and would draw up a list of foreign Islamic clerics “not suitable to preach who will be excluded from Britain.”
“We will establish, with the Muslim community, a commission to advise on how, consistent with people’s complete freedom to worship in the way they want, and to follow their own religion and culture, there is better integration of those parts of the community presently inadequately integrated,” Blair said.
The prime minister dismissed a message from the al-Qaida terror network broadcast Thursday that linked the London bombings to Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war.
Terror attacks by four suspected suicide bombers on July 7 killed 56 people, including the four bombers. There were no casualties in bombings two weeks later on July 21 _ attacks that also targeted three subways and a double-decker bus.
Police have not established firm links between the London bombings and al-Qaida, or between the two sets of bombings.
Police believe they have in custody the four attackers from July 21. One reportedly said the attacks were fueled by Britain’s involvement in Iraq.
In a message broadcast Thursday on the pan-Arab satellite channel Al-Jazeera, al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri warned Britons and blamed Blair.
“Blair has brought to you destruction in central London, and he will bring more of that, God willing,” al-Zawahri said.
He did not claim responsibility for the attacks.
Blair said it was impossible to negotiate with al-Qaida leaders.
“You only have to read the demands coming from al-Qaida to realize there is no compromise possible with these people,” Blair said.