Britain’s police arrested seven Algerians in dawn raids only hours before the government propsed radical new anti-terrorist measures.
The seven were described as “being a threat to national security” and officials said they would be deported.
The arrests come in the wake of the London bomb attacks last July and are part of a general crackdown on Islamist militants.
A government source said all the men were former defendants in the 2002 plot to manufacture ricin poison. None was ever convicted.
Britain’s Interior Minister, Charles Clarke, defended the arrests but went on to qualify his promise not to deport them to any place likely to torture them:“All these countries across northern Africa actually have a record in recent years of less abuse, of less torture, as you put it, than has been the case before”.
Deportation is just one of a selection of measures already in place to fight terrorism – the newly announced proposals include controvercial plans to hold suspects for up to three months without charge.
The government also aims to ban organisations which glorify or incite terrorism.
The Islamic Human Rights Commission has already condemned the plans saying they will increase what it claims is a witchhunt against Muslims.
A UN commission set up to advise governments on maintaining the balance between up-holding human rights and fighting terrorism aims to study the new measures.