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Top UK cleric says longer detention period for terror suspects risks 'police state'

[JURIST] Archbishop of York John Sentamu [official website; BBC profile] criticized the British government Monday for its latest effort to extend the current 28-day maximum detention period for terror suspects [JURIST report]. UK Home Secretary John Reid said last week that in light of the complexity of the investigation of the August transatlantic airplane bombing plot [JURIST report] he would renew efforts to increase the period during which British police can hold a terror suspect without charge. In a television interview, Sentamu, the number-two cleric in the Church of England, said that a longer 90-day detention period would put the UK at risk of becoming "close to a police state" and said that the proposal reminded him of his native Uganda under the regime of notorious dictator Idi Amin [Guardian obituary]. The Yorkshire Post has more.

The terror detention limit has been an ongoing subject of controversy since 2005, when the House of Commons inflicted its first defeat [JURIST report] on the Blair government by cutting back its proposal for a 90-day period to the present 28, an extension over an earlier 14. The Blair government first re-floated the possibility of the longer limit [JURIST report] last March and in November, London Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair suggested that provisions of the Terrorism Act 2006 [Home Office backgrounder] authorizing up to 28 days detention of suspects without trial - already the longest allowed in any western European country - need to be extended in the near future to improve Britain's counterterror efforts. Independent anti-terror law reviewer Lord Carlile has, however, warned lawmakers against "rushing" to make the change [JURIST report], and UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith [official website] said during a media briefing late last year that he had not seen evidence to justify increasing the limit to 90 days [JURIST report].

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