Dhaka to have tough anti-terror ordinance

May 19th, 2008 - 2:13 pm ICT by admin  

Dhaka, May 19 (IANS) Bangladesh will have a tough anti-terror ordinance that provides for the death penalty and aims “to deal with acts of terrorism with an iron hand”, a spokesperson of the military-backed caretaker government has said. The Council of Advisers chaired by Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed cleared the ordinance Sunday evening that would be enforced in the absence of a parliament to legislate on it.

The ordinance defines an “act of terrorism” from a broader perspective, including any act that poses a threat to the sovereignty, unity, integrity or security of Bangladesh or creates panic among the general masses or obstructs official activities.

Opposition parties and human rights bodies questioned the move since it would not have popular mandate and asked that the government elicit public opinion before enforcing the ordinance.

Rights groups and political parties also feared that the new ordinance might be abused, especially for political persecution in the coming days, New Age newspaper said Monday.

Denying any ulterior motive, a government spokesperson said the move was to complete a task begun by the previous Khaleda Zia government that had set up a body to prepare a legislation in 2004 to be part of the US-led war against terrorism.

The Zia government had responded to international criticism and threats of sanctions by the US Congress after reports of Islamist groups working against political opponents and religious minorities and indulging in violence became public.

It had banned some of these groups and secured convictions of some of the top leaders engaged in murders, who were eventually hanged.

According to the ordinance, the use of bombs or other explosives, inflammable substances, firearms or any other chemicals that may injure or kill people to create panic, and damage public or private property, take any person hostage, threaten anyone with death, assault anyone physically, or kill or hurt anyone seriously or detain or abduct a person by such acts have also been defined as acts of terrorism.

The ordinance has suggested speedy trial in special courts with maximum punishment of death or life term or 20 years and minimum three years’ imprisonment for the offenders in addition to financial penalty, said an official after the meeting.

The law stipulates that those who finance terrorist groups, whether they are composed of local or foreign elements, will also be tried under the law. For terror financing, a convict will serve maximum 20 years of rigorous imprisonment and minimum three years with financial penalty.

The law empowers authorities to ban any extremist group. Offences like publicity or broadcast in favour of any outlawed organisation carry a maximum sentence of seven years and minimum of two years in jail.

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