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In London today, three men suspected of trying to bomb the city's transit system last month appeared in court. They came before magistrates, who ruled that the men will remain in custody for the next three months. NPR's Rachel Martin has the latest from London.
RACHEL MARTIN reporting:
Three suspected bombers, Ibrahim Muktar Said, Ramzi Mohammad and Yasin Hassan Omar, were ordered to remain in custody until November. They've been charged with attempted murder, conspiracy to murder and possessing or making explosives. Three other people also appeared before the hearing. They're accused of withholding information that authorities say could have led to the arrest of a fourth suspected bomber, who remains in custody in Italy. The last person to appear before the court today was Haroon Rashid Aswat, a 30-year-old British citizen deported from Zambia and flown to Britain yesterday. Aswat is wanted in the United States for allegedly trying to organize a terrorist training camp in Oregon in 1999. Initial reports had linked Aswat to the London attacks, but British officials now say they can't confirm any connection to the bombings.
The hearing comes after Prime Minister Tony Blair announced plans to tighten anti-terror laws. Last week Blair said the government might have to amend the country's human rights law in order to prosecute Islamic extremists who encourage terrorist ideology. Abu Izzadeen is a British citizen and a spokesman for the Islamic group al-Ghurabaa. Speaking on British television last week, Izzadeen applauded the terrorist attacks in London.
Mr. ABU IZZADEEN (Spokesman, al-Ghurabaa): What I would say about those who do suicide operations, or martyr operations, they're completely praiseworthy.
MARTIN: Izzadeen is one of three clerics authorities and the government are focusing on. In a press conference last week, Prime Minister Tony Blair called for a ban on certain Islamic groups and said extremist clerics who encourage terrorist activities could be deported. When asked how the government would differentiate between incitement and political expression, Blair responded...
Prime Minister TONY BLAIR (Great Britain): There's a great British characteristic, which is called common sense. And I think people understand the commonsense difference between people who may have political views I don't agree with, you don't agree with, and people who are actively engaged in trying to incite people.
MARTIN: Today Britain's top anti-terrorism prosecutor met with officials at Scotland Yard to discuss whether or not to charge the clerics for inciting terrorist activities. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office said they're considering a long list of possible charges, including treason. But some in the government urged greater scrutiny. George Garnier is a conservative leader in the British Parliament. [POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: EDWARD Garnier is a conservative leader in the British Parliament.]
Mr. EDWARD GARNIER (British Parliament): It would be a mistake to rush into thinking about using the law on treason when there are other existing statutes and possibly new ones which could cope with this.
MARTIN: The last time someone in Britain was charged and convicted of treason was in 1945 for spreading Nazi propaganda. Some warn that the proposed anti-terror legislation would roll back newly established human rights laws. Jeffrey Jowell is a British human rights lawyer and a constitutional expert. He says that's not a price worth paying.
Mr. JEFFREY JOWELL (Human Rights Lawyer): Obviously, we've got to do something. But we must be very careful that that bright line of freedom between us and the authoritarian, tyrannical, terrorist types doesn't begin to dim because that'll be their victory and our loss.
MARTIN: Prosecutors will continue to meet with police officials this week about possible charges against the clerics and conduct a standard review. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office says they'll release a report in the coming weeks. Rachel Martin, NPR News, London.
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