The Archbishop of York has spoken out against the Government for bringing Britain “close to a police state.”
Speaking on ITV News on 5 February, the Rt. Rev John Sentamu compared Government plans for 90 day detentions of terror suspects to measures in place in Uganda under Idi Amin. He said “If you detain people, you must have good enough reason for detaining them and have a chance for there being a successful prosecution… [the Home Secretary] has not produced the evidence that shows that in 90 days you’re capable of getting somebody prosecuted.” The Home Secretary John Reid is currently looking to make a fresh attempt to increase the detention period from its current limit of 28 days.
The comments come in the wake of raids by West Midlands Police that resulted in the arrest and detention of nine people in connection with a plot to kidnap and murder a Muslim soldier. The Archbishop has been criticised by Labour MP Shahid Malik who claimed the comparison to Uganda in the 1970s was “churlish and rather silly.” He went on to say “We are dealing with a unique threat in this country and it is not relevant to Idi Amin’s Uganda.”
However, the Archbishop’s views have received support in some quarters. Lord Ahmed expressed similar views by saying that “There is fear in the community. The British public is genuinely frightened about what is happening.” He went on to say that anti-terrorist action was merely used to distract the public from troubling acts of the Government.
During the interview the Archbishop also urged people moving to the UK to accept and “really cherish the traditions that are here. This is not the first time the Archbishop has taken a public political stance. During the summer he camped out in the York Minster for a week in protest of the Israel-Lebanon War.