Now Blunkett May Lock Up Britons without Trial; Terrorism Law Shake-Up Could Mean Return of Internment for the First Time since 1973

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Byline: GLEN OWEN

HOME Secretary David Blunkett is believed to be secretly considering proposals to detain without trial Britons suspected of terrorism.

Civil liberties campaigners warn the plans would effectively mean the return of internment for the first time since 1973.

Currently, only foreigners can be held indefinitely on the word of the intelligence services. Eleven are now locked up, though they can go free if they will return to their home countries.

But senior legal sources say Home Office officials have now 'taken soundings' on extending the law to include Britons.

Civil liberties activists believe Ministers would justify the move by saying that they are making the law the same for Britons as it is for foreigners.

Mr Blunkett's advisers fear that unless Britons are also subject to indefinite detention without trial, the law could be struck down in court because it discriminates against foreigners.

The Lords will examine the legality of the measure next month. Mr Blunkett has tried to appease liberals by saying he will not return suspects to their home countries if they face death. The original emergency measures, passed within weeks of the September 11 attacks, have led to accusations Mr Blunkett is running a 'mini-Guantanamo' in British prisons.

Last week, an Algerian asylumseeker accused of Al Qaeda links was freed after being interned for nearly three years. He was one of 12 foreigners being held without trial or charge at high-security jails. Many allegedly have mental health problems because they have no idea when they will be released. …