TapWhat is terrorism?

We used to think we know what this word meant. It was the Mau-Mau, PLO or the IRA—i.e. indiscriminate violence by non-governmental organisations for the purposes of destabilising legitimate government. This could be entirely internal or unofficial action from other countries. Even if your allegiance called them freedom fighters, it is legitimate for the state to defend against it.

Since the recent troubles started (let us say since September 2001 for convenience) many new laws have been introduced here and abroad for the “prevention of terrorism”. However I have noticed that the definition seems to be widening. Recently the RIPA legislation has been used against Animal Rights Activists—is that terrorism. Yes, I know that sometimes their methods are similar but the objective is very different. This is not the only example where laws introduced for the fight against terrorism have been used for other offences.

While we are at it, why should terrorists be treated any differently to other offenders. Perhaps it is true that, due to its nature, it requires different methods to detect and police but once caught, surely the age old principles of justice should be sufficient to prosecute them. Things like innocent until proven guilty; not detained without being charged; right to a trial before a jury of peers etc.

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