Euros get tough with terror suspects

IHT/NY Times:

As his wristwatch edges toward 3:26 p.m., the 32-year-old Algerian moves his wooden chair closer to the back door. At 3:30 sharp, his leg needs to be inside his North London house. The man, whose name, by court order, cannot be divulged, wears an electronic tag around his left ankle and is allowed to leave his home just four hours a day.

He was arrested in London four years ago on suspicion of links to the Armed Islamic Group, an Algerian terrorist organization, and spent more than three years in high-security prisons before being put under partial house arrest in October. Now the British government wants to send him back to Algeria.

But no formal charges have been brought, and, he and his lawyer said, he has not been interrogated once, or informed of evidence against him. "Since the day they arrested me, I have never been asked any questions or told what the case is," the man said. "How can you defend yourself in a situation like that?"


The clashing of priorities has been clear in the United States, in the domestic debates preceding the renewal of the Patriot Act, and in the international uproar over prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib and the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay.

But many European governments, including some that had criticized the United States for its antiterrorism measures, have been extending their own surveillance and prosecution powers. Officials, lawyers and human rights experts say that Europe, too, is experiencing a slow erosion of civil liberties as governments increasingly put the prevention of possible terrorist actions ahead of concerns to protect the rights of people suspected, but not convicted, of a crime.

Most of Britain's new counterterrorism legislation, which outlaws the vaguely worded "glorification" of terrorism, came into force on Thursday. Italy and the Netherlands have relaxed the conditions under which intelligence services may eavesdrop. French legislation recently gave investigators broader access to telephone and Internet data. German legislation being drawn up seeks to allow intelligence services easier access to bank and car registration records.


Thos who are concerned about terrorist rights have much to worry about. What slips though in this story is that the NY Times' concern about intercepting terrorist communications between al Qaeda and its agents in this country would be even more laughable in Europe.


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