Blair wins key anti-terrorism vote

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LONDON -- Prime Minister Tony Blair's government succeeded yesterday in pushing through a new law that makes the "glorification" of terrorism a criminal offense.

Opponents said the law impinges on civil liberties, but the Blair government appears to have benefited from a growing public backlash over the "cartoon wars" - the attacks on Western embassies and a global Muslim outcry over a dozen cartoons in a Danish newspaper that satirized the Prophet Muhammad.

An earlier version of the government's bill barely squeaked through the House of Commons in November, when Blair suffered a resounding defeat on a related measure that would have allowed the government to hold terrorism suspects as long as 90 days without charge.

The House of Lords then rejected the "glorification" wording, saying it was too vague, and substituted milder language.

But since then, public attitudes toward Britain's large Muslim immigrant community have hardened, and the House of Commons voted 315-277 to restore the original language, easily overriding objections from the opposition Conservative Party and Liberal Democrats.

Britons were outraged this month when British Muslims protesting the cartoons carried signs praising the suicide bombers who killed 52 London commuters in July. One young protester dressed up as a suicide bomber. Many Britons were incensed that police made no move to arrest those carrying the offending placards.

Passage of the bill was the second important victory of the week for the government's anti-terrorism program. On Monday, Parliament took the first step toward implementing a program of national identity cards.

After the July 7 bomb attacks in London, Blair introduced a sweeping package of anti-terrorism laws but he suffered a humiliating defeat in November when Parliament rejected his proposal to increase from 14 days to 90 the length of time a suspect could be held without charge. Instead, lawmakers substituted a compromise of 28 days.

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