Senior British prosecutor says fight against terror not a 'war'

Britain's director of public prosecutions told a gathering of top lawyers that the dangers posed by terrorism should not undermine the right to a fair trial. The BBC reports that Sir Ken Macdonald said dropping the safeguards for the right to a fair trial would represent "defeat and a surrender to nihilism.'

Legislation passed by some countries in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States was inconsistent and even hostile to "traditional rights", he said in a speech to the Criminal Bar Association.

"We wouldn't get far in promoting a civilising culture of respect for rights amongst and between citizens if we set about undermining fair trials in the simple pursuit of greater numbers of inevitably less safe convictions," said Sir Ken.

The Guardian reports that while acknowledging that the threat posed by groups like Al Qaeda is greater than threats posed in the past by groups like the Irish Republican Army, Mr. Macdonald also said this new threat also carried a risk that was equally as bad if it encouraged a "fear-driven response."

He said: "London is not a battlefield. Those innocents who were murdered on July 7 2005 were not victims of war. And the men who killed them were not, as in their vanity they claimed on their ludicrous videos, 'soldiers'. They were deluded, narcissistic inadequates. They were criminals. They were fantasists. We need to be very clear about this. On the streets of London, there is no such thing as a 'war on terror', just as there can be no such thing as a 'war on drugs'.

"The fight against terrorism on the streets of Britain is not a war. It is the prevention of crime, the enforcement of our laws and the winning of justice for those damaged by their infringement."

The Guardian also writes that Macdonald's comments can be seen an assault on the Blair government's legislation that allowed the indefinite detention of suspected terrorists without trial, which was later ruled invalid by the British courts, as well as the "replacement law that permits suspects to be placed under control orders instead of being brought to trial."

Macdonald had just been given a knighthood by the Blair government in December of 2006.

Macdonald's comments came the day after Britain's intelligence service, MI5, warned that the country is no safer today than it was the day of the 7/7 bombings because of the "upsurge in home-grown terrorism triggered by the Iraq and Afghan wars." The Evening Standard reports that the intelligence chiefs say that " society isn't any safer." But even the MI5 comments are seen as an problem for the prime minister.

The revelation that MI5 believes the invasion of Iraq is behind the terror threat is an embarrassing blow to Tony Blair. He has steadfastly refused to accept that his foreign policy has inspired attempts at home and abroad to attack the UK.

Military chiefs, senior civil servants and most ministers now believe that the Prime Minister's decision to back George Bush and go to war has radicalised young Muslims and encouraged terrorism.

But one intelligence source said: "The 2003 invasion triggered it all, but that's a reality we can't say in public."

The Gulf News reports that last Friday, British Chancellor Gordon Brown (who many people expect to succeed Mr. Blair when he steps down later this year) said he will continue Blair's policies on the "war on terror," in particular sending British troops abroad. Mr. Brown said there would be "no lurch to the left" under his leadership and that Britain "had no future in anti-Americanism."

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