The Spectator

Portrait of the Week - 13 August 2005

A speedy round-up of the week's news

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Mr Tony Blair, the Prime Minister, floated all kinds of schemes to counter terrorists, with legislation to be introduced in the autumn, including the amendment of the Human Rights Act in respect of the provisions of the European convention on human rights. Involvement with extremist websites, bookshops or centres would be used as grounds for deporting foreign nationals; bilateral arrangements would be made to protect deportees from torture in their native lands. Mr Blair predicted ‘a lot of battles’ with the courts. ‘Let no one be in any doubt, the rules of the game are changing,’ he said, before going off on holiday, leaving Britain under the notional care of Mr John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister. The Attorney General was said by government sources to be considering charges of treason. The government named three Muslim preachers living in Britain whose words might merit prosecution: Omar Bakri Mohammed, Abu Uzair and Abu Izzadeen. The next minute Omar Bakri was giving interviews on the wireless from Lebanon, where he was on ‘holiday’, he said, visiting his mother. The government then floated the idea of having courts without juries sitting in camera to examine prima facie cases against imprisoned suspects. Three men were charged with conspiracy to murder and other offences in connection with the failed bombings on 21 July, and another, Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, was charged in connection with explosives found at Little Wormwood Scrubs. Another terrorist suspect, Haroon Rashid Aswat, was flown from Zambia to London; he is wanted in America. Robin Cook, the foreign secretary from 1997 to 2001, who resigned as leader of the House of Commons in 2003 over the decision to go to war against Iraq, died in the company of his wife near the summit of the 2,365ft Ben Stack in the Scottish Highlands, aged 59. Dixons, the demotic electronics chain, stopped selling film cameras in favour of digital cameras. A DIY enthusiast from Stoke-on-Trent found when he tried to take his jumper off that he had accidentally fired a nail from a nail-gun into his heart; a surgeon successfully removed it.

Al-Jazeera television broadcast a video made by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy leader of al-Qa’eda, containing colourful threats to Britain. ‘We exploded volcanoes of anger,’ he said. ‘I am telling you that Blair brought you destruction in the middle of London and more will come, God willing.’ Mr George Galloway, the Respect party MP for Bethnal Green and Bow, gave an interview during a visit to Syria in July, broadcast on television, during which he said, ‘Two of your beautiful daughters are in the hands of foreigners: Jerusalem and Baghdad. The foreigners are doing to your daughters as they will. The daughters are crying for help and the Arab world is silent. Some of them are collaborating with the rape of these two beautiful Arab daughters. Why? Because they are too weak and corrupt to do anything about it.’ The United Nations independent inquiry, headed by Mr Paul Volcker, into the UN oil-for-food programme for Iraq, claimed that Mr Benon Sevan, the former head of the programme, had taken more than $147,184 in illicit payments. Iran was found to be processing uranium in a step towards producing nuclear weapons, despite an undertaking given to the European Union troika of Britain, Germany and France. Mr Junichiro Koizumi, the Prime Minister of Japan, called a snap election for September after his party, the Liberal Democrats, was split by his determination to privatise the post office, which employs one in three of public employees and has assets of US$3,200 billion. The American space-shuttle Discovery landed safely in California after an astronaut mended its insulation tiles in orbit. Seven Russian submariners were saved when a British Scorpio robot vessel cut through fishing nets in which their submarine had spent three days entangled at 600ft below sea-level off the Kamchatka peninsula in the Pacific.