After heated debate, India passes anti-terrorism bill

Wednesday, March 27, 2002

NEW DELHI, India -- Lawmakers in India approved an anti-terrorism bill Tuesday after a day of heated debate in a highly unusual joint session of Parliament.

The government said the legislation is crucial after the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States and a Dec. 13 attack on the Indian Parliament.

"We cannot score a decisive victory against terrorism unless a special law of this kind is enacted," interior minister Lal Krishna Advani said as he presented the bill.

Opponents denounced the bill as an draconian curtailment of civil rights and voiced fears the Hindu nationalist-led government would use the law selectively against Muslims and political rivals.

The Prevention of Terrorism bill allows police to detain suspects for questioning for three months without bringing charges against them and another three months with approval from a special court. The bill also allows anyone suspected of giving money, shelter, transportation or other support to terrorists to be tried on terrorism charges.

It provides punishments ranging from a minimum five years in prison to death.

The government says the law will be effective against Islamic separatists in Jammu-Kashmir, India's only Muslim majority state. India blames the militants for the attack on Parliament and says they were aided by Pakistan.

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