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Feeding the fear

On 20 January, just outside 10 Downing Street, the Campaign Against Criminalising Communities organised a protest – supported by an alliance of campaigning and human rights groups – against the detention of suspects without trial and calling for an end to the political terror that the anti-terror legislation has itself created. Activists, human rights lawyers and members of the London Muslim community attended the event at which they urged the government to stop detention without trial and not to pursue plans for the forced deportation of foreign nationals from Belmarsh and Woodhill prisons.

Real distance

As those attending gathered to voice these concerns, police corralled the event into the confines of crash barriers, facing away from the prime minister's official residence. Much as the government has ridden roughshod over the concerns of civil liberties organisations and the families of those detained, the demands of those present were further diverted away from the prime minister.

Clear condemnation

Ironically, it is parts of the legal system that are providing the clearest condemnation of government policy. On 16 Dec 2004 the Law Lords issued an historic ruling on the policy of detention without trial in which they declared that internment was unacceptable and that the law permitting it must be changed. To date more than a dozen foreign nationals have been detained without trial in British prisons.

No justice – no peace

Speakers at the demonstration – all calling for either the fair trial of detainees in the UK, or for their release, included the lawyers defending suspects, such as Gareth Peirce and Mike Mansfield (pictured), representatives of the Muslim community, such as Dr Adnan Siddiqui from Stop Political Terror and Dr G Siddiqui from the Muslim Parliament, and those campaigning around the wider implications for civil liberties that these cases represent. The father of Babar Ahmad, who was arrested on 5 August 2004 with an Extradition Warrant from the US, talked about the adverse consequences of the government's current policy and the devastating effects it has on the communities involved. But it was perhaps Hugo Charlton, Chair of the Green Party, who best captured the mood of the event as he called for the immediate end of the UK’s derogation from Article 5 of the European Human Rights Convention. “The people suffering in detainment should not be the price we pay to feed those who are afraid.”

Contact CAMPACC, tel 020 7250 1315, 7586 5892; email estella24@tiscali.co.uk; http://www.cacc.org.uk/