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MDP MPs concerned over proposed changes to anti-terrorism law

Ruling party lawmakers are due to meet the Attorney General to share concerns.



MPs of the Maldivian Democratic Party have sought a meeting with the attorney general to share concerns over proposed changes to the anti-terrorism law, MDP parliamentary group leader Ali Azim told the press on Sunday.

Sweeping changes proposed by the government to the 2015 Anti-Terrorism Act would authorise police to arrest terror suspects without a warrant, conduct invasive body searches, deny private consultations with legal counsel and detain suspects for 48 hours before taking them before a judge. The amendments also seek to criminalise expressions of support for terrorist organisations as well as the sporting of banners, photos, literature or clothes deemed a declaration of support.

Ruling party lawmakers were opposed to restricting constitutional rights, Azim told media outlets. The main concern was over granting powers to arrest suspects and enter private property without a court order, the majority leader said, adding that MDP MPs want to meet the attorney general to seek explanations and clarify reasons for the proposed changes.

Azim was not responding to calls or messages at the time of publication.

Government-sponsored legislation to amend the anti-terrorism law was introduced last week after parliament was called back from recess. Debate is expected to begin next week.

The proposed changes also prompted concerns over civil liberties and the potential for abuse.

Speaking at an opposition rally in Malé on Thursday night, former president Abdulla Yameen said police should be able to investigate cases without detaining suspects and accused the current administration of politicising the police and military.

The government was trying to target opponents for arrest by granting further powers to law enforcement agencies, the opposition leader warned.  “What they’re doing in the name of bringing peace to the Maldives, bringing order to the streets, is laying hands on and arresting people they want however they please,” Yameen told supporters at the capital’s artificial beach.

The opposition coalition led by the former president also issued a statement on Thursday criticising the proposed restriction of constitutional rights.

The government was accused of planning to target religious scholars and preachers in a bid to “offer space for secular ideology.”

Opposition leaders and lawmakers were jailed for long periods or forced into exile during Yameen’s five-year term. Former president Mohamed Nasheed and Adhaalath Party leader Sheikh Imran Abdulla were found guilty of terrorism after widely condemned trials. Their convictions were overturned in the wake of Yameen’s heavy defeat in last year’s presidential election.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih announced plans to amend both the terrorism law and criminal procedures law in light of alarming findings disclosed by an independent commission that probed the abduction of a journalist in August 2014. Maldives Independent journalist Ahmed Rilwan was murdered at sea by a local extremist group affiliated with al-Qaeda, the presidential commission concluded after a 10-month inquiry.