By Steven Swinford, Martin Evans and Matthew Holehouse, London Telegraph
Britons who travel to Syria and Iraq without informing the authorities should be presumed to be potential terrorists until proved innocent, Boris Johnson says.
In an article for The Telegraph, Mr Johnson warns that police are finding it “very difficult” to press charges against suspected jihadists without direct evidence of their “ghastly” activities.
He suggests there should be a “swift and minor change in the law” to introduce a new “rebuttable presumption” that those who travel to war zones without notifying the authorities have done so for “terrorist purposes”.
The Mayor of London also joins calls for jihadists to be stripped of their citizenship, despite opposition from Theresa May, the Home Secretary, who warned at the weekend that such a move would be illegal.
He calls for control orders, which kept terrorism suspects in their homes, to be brought back amid concerns that hundreds of jihadists could return to Britain and pose a threat to national security if Isil (the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) loses ground in Iraq and Syria.
Mr Johnson’s intervention came as the British ambassador to the US said intelligence agents believe they have identified “Jihadi John”, the Briton responsible for beheading the American journalist James Foley, after employing voice recognition technology.
Peter Westmacott, the ambassador to Washington, also disclosed that 70 militants have been arrested after returning from Syria, a number of them carrying instructions for “very specific missions” to unleash terrorist atrocities on British soil.
Mr Johnson says Britain needs to help to “close down” the Islamic caliphate before it is too late, adding that “doing nothing is surely worst of all”.
He says: “If we let Isil get their way, then we will be acquiescing, first, in a gigantic and violent change in international borders.
“Next, we will be allowing a new and hideous regime to be born, a country where black-flag waving jihadis compete to show they have the most bigoted and reactionary understanding of their religion by persecuting women, Jews, Christians, gays, Yazidis ande Shi’ites.
“The place would be a giant training ground for terrorists and wannabe jihadis. We need to try to close it down now, before it gets worse.”
Senior lawyers said that Mr Johnson’s proposals for “rebuttable presumption” would mark a “profound change” to British law.
Earlier this year, David Cameron announced new laws under which terrorist offences committed in Syria will be prosecuted as if they have taken place on British soil.
The lawyers said Mr Johnson’s plans would go significantly further by shifting the burden of proof from police and prosecutors on to suspected jihadists.
Mr Johnson also says that suspected terrorists who do not return to Britain and “continue to give allegiance” to Isil should be stripped of their citizenship. Similar calls have been made by David Davis, the Tory MP, and Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.
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