Denmark: War on terrorism should not kill our civil liberties
"So finally, our little, peaceful Denmark has come under the focus of international terrorist network.
According to extensive media coverage, including television interviews given by the head of the Danish Secret Service (PET), a terror plot in its advance stage of preparedness has been foiled. This happened in the early morning of Tuesday, the 5th of September 2006.
PET has been observing the persons arrested for a considerable length of time.
Initially, 9 young men were arrested in these raids from a notorious suburb of Odense, the 4th largest city of Denmark, by a police force of over 200.
But already the same day, two persons were released due to the lack of evidence. Furthermore, the court after a lengthy hearing accepted to put in jail, only 2 of the remaining 7 for a period of four weeks. Court asked the police to provide further proof of involvement against the five persons within 3 days, otherwise they shall be set free.
Without going into details of the whole development in this case, it is important to note few elementary issues; the Islamophobic role of the media, the populist reaction of some opportunistic politicians, the quick position taken by the Justice Minister and the demand by extreme right wing Danish People's Party for immediate extra surveillance measures.
Media was very quick to drag Islam, Mosque, Quran and other customary ingredients of sensationalism in their reporting. Journalists in their droves descended on the city, courthouse and interviewed anyone who wanted to open the mouth. Frenzy is already created. People are fed with news, views and opinions, which they have no way of checking. Ordinary citizens are being scared by headlines like; "Enemy among us" " Why young Danish Muslims are becoming terrorists". " Now we are the second most important target for Al Qaeeda" . It seems that some journalists are almost gleeful at the prospect of terror coming to Denmark. It will give them some thing to write about.
Danish People's Party at once suggested that police should be able to eavesdrop whole residential blocks, cameras be installed on public streets and a ban on anti-democratic activities should be added in the present anti-terror law.
Justice Minister publicly said that she was open to give the police all the extra tools necessary to deal with terror. She called the present case;" The most serious case in the country during her ministerial tenure - or may be possibly ever".
Luckily few but strong voices of caution have emerged. From the former Chief of the Secret Service, few seasoned politicians of the ruling party and some leading legal experts have all denounced this panic reaction, especially when the case has not even started. They warned both the Justice Minister and politicians to be careful and not pass guilty judgement before the legal procedure has run its course and the persons arrested have been found guilty. Until then they are innocent.
Former PET Chief very categorically said;" There is no need for additional strengthening of anti-terror laws. We have all the legality which is needed to deal with such situations.".
All this has happened without public having a clue if the arrested persons have anything to do with terrorism. In spite of this, the arrested have almost publicly been sentenced by the media, police and the politicians. The secret service has said that the young people involved were manufacturing bombs and the Justice Minister has stated that these persons were planning a terrorist attack in Denmark.
Terrorism is a very serious crime. The accused must be punished and punished hard, but only through a fair trial in a courtroom where the accused and the prosecutor both are equal in front of the law. War on terrorism should not end up striking our civil liberties and doing more damage than good to the society.
It would have been wise for people covering the case - media, police and Justice Minster to step back and let real justice take its course.
Let us keep in mind that in a democratic society like ours, an accused is innocent until proven guilty!"
Bashy Quraishy, Chief Editor Media Watch-Denmark, Member Board of Trustees - More colour in the media - Holland
Mobile: 0045 - 40 15 47 71 Home phone and Fax: 0045-38 88 19 77 www.bashy.dk
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