New groups banned for ‘glorifying’ terrorism

Two UK-based organisations have been banned under new legislation prohibiting the glorification of terrorism, the Home Office has announced.

Al Ghurabaa and Saved Sect are believed to be splinter groups of radical group al-Muhajiroon, which was one of two organisations named by Tony Blair in the wake of the London bombings last summer.

Its founder, Omar Bakri Mouhammad, dissolved the group in October 2004 and afterwards left Britain for the Lebanon. He was then excluded from returning to the UK.

According to the Home Office, Al Ghurabaa “makes deliberately provocative and controversial statements expressing extremist views”, while Saved Sect “disseminates extremist material”.

Both groups are working to “disseminate an Islamist message under the umbrella of Ahl Us-Sunnah Wal-Jammaa’ah, described as a sect within Islam”, officials said.

These activities have now been deemed illegal under section 21 of the Terrorist Act 2006, which prohibits the glorification of terrorism.

The introduction of this offence was highly controversial, and was approved in the House of Commons by only one vote last year. Critics argue it is at best too vague to be of any use, and at worst a major restriction on freedom of speech.

But today home secretary John Reid said: “Proscribing these groups – which are either engaged in terrorism or which glorify terrorist acts – sends a strong signal that the UK is not prepared to tolerate those who support terrorism here or anywhere in the world.

“I am determined to act against those who, while not directly involved in committing acts of terrorism, provide support for and make statements that glorify, celebrate and exalt the atrocities of terrorist groups.”

Two other internationally-based groups have been proscribed today, including the Baluchistan Liberation Army (BLA), which is made up of tribal groups based in eastern Pakistan and has claimed responsibility for a number of attacks dating back to 2004.

Home Office officials said the group “continues to plan attacks and has tried to conduct fundraising in the UK”, while the other group, Teyrebaz Azadiye Kurdistan (TAK) has claimed a series of attacks in Istanbul and warned it may target tourists in Turkey.

Under powers included in the Terrorism Act 2006, the home secretary has also added two alternative names for the Kurdistan Workers’ party (PKK) to the list – Kongra Gele Kurdistan and Kadek, to prevent it operating illicitly.

“Protecting the public and strengthening national security is my top priority. Proscription powers are an important tool in our armoury in the fight against terrorism,” Mr Reid said.

“The new, widened, criteria introduced in the Terrorism Act 2006 allows us to create an even more hostile environment in which terrorists find it more difficult to operate, and will assist us in tackling every part of the terrorist network.”