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UK frees most terror suspects

MORE than half the people arrested in Britain on suspicion of terrorism since 2001 have been freed without being charged, the country's law and order ministry said yesterday.

Releasing the first complete statistics on the issue, covering the period from the attacks on the United States to March 31, 2008, the Home Office said there had been 1,471 arrests under the Terrorism Act.

Of those, 521 resulted in charges being brought, of whom 102 were ultimately convicted under terrorism legislation. A further 94 were convicted under non-terrorism legislation.

The statistics do not, however, include those who are charged and awaiting trial, or those who have been convicted of a terrorism-related crime since March 2008.

Britain has been on high alert over terrorism since September 2001 and especially since four suicide bombers blew themselves up on the London transport network in July 2005, killing 52 commuters. Other planned attacks have been foiled.

It has introduced more stringent anti-terrorism laws, allowing suspects to be detained up to 28 days without charge, and stop and search operations on the streets.

The 28-day detention rule makes Britain one of the strictest countries in Europe in terms of holding suspects.

Human rights groups are opposed to the measure, but the government insists it is necessary. The government failed in a recent bid to increase it to 42 days.

Similar rate

According to the figures released yesterday, only six people have been held for the full complement of 28 days without charge. Three were ultimately charged.

Paul Wiles, chief scientific adviser at the Home Office, said the proportion of terrorism suspects arrested who were later charged was similar to the rate for other criminal offenses, at around 35 percent.

A recent trial of three men who prosecutors said were involved in planning the July 2005 attacks failed to reach guilty verdicts on those charges, but two were convicted of lesser terrorism offenses.

Wiles said the figures would be updated every quarter in the future.

"The main offenses for which suspects were charged under terrorism legislation were possession of an article for terrorist purposes, membership of a proscribed organization, and fundraising, all offenses under the Terrorism Act," he said.


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