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British government under fire for controversial antiterror bill

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The government of British Prime Minister Gordon Brown faces broad opposition to its just-published antiterrorism bill, which would controversially allow suspected terrorists to be held for up to 42 days without charge.

The Financial Times reports that the government made public the Counter Terrorism Bill on Thursday, with much of the focus on the expanded detention provision, an increase from the current 28-day maximum.

Ministers, supported by senior police chiefs and some government security advisers, argue that terror plots are becoming more complex, both in terms of their international dimension and the use of encrypted technology, so that more time may be needed to investigate before a suspect is freed....
However critics say existing laws already give the government powers to declare a national emergency in exceptional circumstances, and that the latest proposal is an unnecessary encroachment on civil liberties.

The Financial Times report notes that the bill includes other measures that have not met with such opposition.

The Bill contains less controversial measures, including new powers allowing police to question suspects after they have been charged, and provision for the private sector to finance additional protection of key gas sites.
New offences created by the Bill include that of communicating, publishing, or eliciting information from members of the armed forces which might be of use to a terrorist.

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