Sunday, February 27, 2005

UK: The French have a problem with how the Brits are fighting terrorists.

"Mr Marsaud, the founder of the Service Centrale de Lutte Anti-Terroriste, a service that brought together investigating magistrates, police, intelligence agents and government departments to fight terrorism, was withering about Britain's anti-terrorist record. Most egregious, he said, is the case of Rachid Ramda, who is believed to have been behind the Metro and train bombings that prompted the radical rethink in France. Ramda, who is being held in Belmarsh, edited the Al-Ansar (The Victorious) newspaper and was arrested in London, from where he allegedly plotted the attacks, shortly after they were carried out in 1995. The French maintain that he was the financier for the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, which claimed responsibility for the bombings. The court of appeal overruled the British Government's decision to extradite Ramda, based on his claim that the French information implicating him had been obtained by torture from other Algerian suspects. "I have to say for us French, your way of fighting terrorism is difficult to understand and the failure of Britain to extradite Ramda is an example of this," said Mr Marsaud. "Today, the British Government and British institutions are without doubt the most difficult for us to work with. There is easy cooperation between us and the Spanish, Germans, Italians and even the Americans. But with Britain it remains very, very difficult." Britain had a "completely different system and a different concept of the law", he said, arguing that a reactive "policing approach" was applied instead of a preventive strategy – a naive approach based on Britain's good fortune thus far not to have been attacked by Islamic terrorists. "We in France have," he said, in a reference to attacks by Algerian groups. The French offence of "association with terrorists" – under which suspicions based on intelligence rather than hard evidence admissible in court are enough to imprison an individual – has been the centrepiece of the country's anti-terrorist strategy. "This is considered by some to be an attack on the liberty of individuals and I agree totally," Mr Marsaud said. "But it stops the bombs. There has to be a balance between individual liberty on one hand and the efficiency of the system to protect the public on the other. In an ideal world, I would choose the first, but this is not an ideal world, and when dealing with Islamic extremists we have to be brutal sometimes."

The ACLU would be howling right about now.

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