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Europe moves against Internet's 'virtual training camps'

Incitement, training and recruitment offences added

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Europe's interior ministers have announced a further crack-down on Internet terrorism, adding three new offences - terrorist propaganda, recruitment and training - to EU law. The move takes the form of an amendment to the 2002 Framework Decision on combating terrorism, and is intended to further harmonise the way terrorist offences are tackled and punished across Europe.

The changes, which were agreed at the end of last week, follow on from proposals made last year to tackle the Internet's "virtual training camps". They include the rider that the new laws can't be used to restrict freedom of expression or freedom of the press, and the Council of Ministers congratulates itself (possibly because nobody else is likely to) for producing "an excellent example of how the use of the Internet for terrorist purposes can be dealt with in a way which respects the freedom of speech."

The specific offences added are public provocation to commit a terrorist offence, recruitment, and training for terrorism. Laws covering these are already in place in several European states, and the UK's various terrorism acts already cover most of the territory. Or possibly even more - last year, for example, Mohammed Atif Siddique was convicted of a number of offences in the area, including providing training by means of Internet linking.

Europe's amended Framework Decision will, it is claimed, "make it easier for law enforcement authorities to get cooperation from internet service providers," both in terms of identifying individuals and in the removal of offending material.

The new European laws do not as yet cover the filtering out of terrorism-related material by ISPs, but this is another area where the UK may blaze the trail. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith proposed something along these lines at the beginning of this year. ®

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