Britons have been stripped of civil liberties

Amid an “atmosphere of panic” over the threat from terrorism, according to the novelist John le Carré

Published on The Telegraph, by Nicole Martin and Christopher Hope, Sept 23, 2008.

In a rare public intervention, the spy author criticised ministers for voting to extend the time limit that terror suspects can be held without charge to 42 days.

His comments come only weeks ahead of a key vote in the House of Lords that could see peers throw out the Government’s controversial 42-day proposals.

The writer, who admitted he has a reputation as “an angry old man”, said he was furious that the Government had been allowed to get away with a sustained attack on civil liberties.

“Partly, I’m angry that there is so little anger around me at what is being done to our society, supposedly in order to protect it,” said the 76-year-old in an interview in Waterstone’s magazine.

“We have been taken to war under false pretences, and stripped of our civil rights in an atmosphere of panic. Our lawyers don’t take to the streets as they have done in Pakistan.

“Our MPs allow themselves to be deluded by their own spin doctors, and end up believing their own propaganda” …

… The writer has been an outspoken critic of Labour’s erosion of civil liberties.

He was one of several figures from the arts and academia who wrote to Gordon Brown in March to protest at the 42-day detention limit.

The open letter, which was also signed by author Iain Banks and fashion designer Vivienne Westwood, warned that “relations could suffer if the Muslim community appears to be … targeted for prolonged pre-charge detention”.

Campaigners and opposition MPs are suggesting that the terror vote in the House of Lords on October 13 will be tight.

Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the civil rights group Liberty, said: “Mr le Carré is not a lone voice.

“Forty-two days has become totemic of the biggest assault on all our hard won rights and freedoms. It is a shame that it takes a writer of fiction to give the Government a reality check.” (full text).

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