In today’s Independent, Boyd Tonkin writes about “Charge or Release”, a campaign of 42 leading British writers who joined the National Council for Civil Liberties earlier this week in opposing British government plans to hold terror suspects for 42 days without charge. Though the bill was rejected on Oct. 14 by 191 votes, there are still plans for a modified proposal. The campaign features a collection of stories, poems, and essays by writers like Philip Pullman, Julian Barnes, and Mohsin Hamid. According to Tonkin:
Now, more than ever, the freedom of the individual against the state needs all the gifted friends it can recruit. But, reading through these heartfelt and eloquent pieces, one assumption struck me hard. Almost everyone discussed the horrors of detention without charge from the point of view of the innocent accused. Fair enough. But the privilege of literature, I always thought, was that it could try to understand “ not excuse, and not justify “ the guilty as well.
All honour to the anti-42 days literati for their dramas of victimised virtue. Dostoevsky, I imagine, would insist that they take all these fine ideals, meet the gaze of contemporary terror “ and then refuse to turn away.