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UK government wards off terror law amendment by one vote

[JURIST] UK Prime Minister Tony Blair [official website] won a narrow victory in the House of Commons Wednesday as his government warded off an amendment to its proposed counter-terrorism legislation [draft, PDF] by one vote. The government defeated a proposal to add the element of "intent" to the new crime of inciting terrorism by 300-299 [BBC report], although its usual majority is 66. The entire legislative package has recently come under attack by some members of Parliament and many civil rights groups, who have expressed special unhappiness with the provision that allows the government to hold terror suspects without charge for 90 days. Blair insists that the 90-day holding period is essential to the government's ability to form a strong case against terrorism suspects. Amnesty International [advocacy website] and other civil rights organizations insist that holding terrorism suspects without charge undermines centuries-old British law and will effectively alienate the Muslim community [AI press release]. Amnesty's damning attack on the legislation comes after a recent warning from Lord Carlile of Berriew, the Government's terror watchdog, that a three-month detention without charge could breach human rights law [Independent report]. The UK legislation was proposed [JURIST report] after this summer's London bombings [JURIST news archive]. Reuters has more.

4:52 PM ET - Fearing defeat on the 90-day detention provision, UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke has asked that the vote on that be delayed until he has had time to seek cross-party consensus on it, a move which may pave the way for a climb-down. The Financial Times has more.

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