Radical Islamist groups banned following Newsnight interview

The Home Office has banned two militant Islamist groups under new legislation outlawing the glorification of terrorism after they made controversial comments about the London bombings to the media.

In an interview on the BBC's Newsnight following the 7 July attacks, Abu Uzair, spokesman for the Al Ghurabaa organisation, appeared to condone the attacking of British troops in Iraq and said the suicide bombers who carried out the bombings were "completely praiseworthy".

The journalist who conducted the interviews, Richard Watson, said: "The comments they made on Newsnight certainly drew them to the attention of the Government because Tony Blair and the Government made comments about the two groups the day after the broadcast went out, so there was a link between the piece on Newsnight and Government action against them."

The same two groups were also involved in protests earlier this year against the publication of the Danish cartoon depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

In the weeks following 7/7, Watson used contacts he had developed within the Muslim community to find out what young radical Islamists in Britain thought of the London bombings and interviewed spokesmen from the Saved Sect and Al Ghurabaa.

Watson said: "After consultation with Peter Barron, the editor, and David Jordan, head of editorial policy, it was decided that we could go ahead with this [story]. It was in the public interest to get this out in a way to spark a debate about why it is that some people like this, British citizens, could hold such extreme views in this country, even after an event as devastating as the July bombings.

The Newsnight film was widely followed up. Watson said that the comments were discussed at the highest levels and the interviews were "immensely frustrating at the same timebecause they were stepping on the right side of the law".

The new widened criteria of the Terrorism Act 2006 make it illegal to belong to, or encourage support for, the Saved Sect or Al Ghurabaa.

But Watson said: "It's going to make life more difficult for investigative journalists if groups such as these believe that they are going to be banned for speaking out to journalists."

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