Anti-terrorism bill passed amid opposition walkout

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The parliament on Tuesday passed the Anti-Terrorism (Amendment) Bill-2013 which would allow the courts to accept videos, still photographs, and audio clips used in facebook, twitter, skype and other social media for trial of cases.

The opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party staged its fourth walkout from the House since June 3 protesting the passage of the ‘controversial’ anti-terror law.

At least 15 opposition lawmakers walked out of the House led by BNP lawmaker and party standing committee member Moudud Ahmad at around 5:00 pm after the Awami League-dominated House adopted the Anti-Terrorism (amendment) Bill-2013 rejecting the opposition’s demand for scraping the proposed law.

Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir moved the bill in the House and it was passed by voice vote.

The law provided capital punishment as highest punishment for terrorism and subversive activities depending upon the extent of the crimes.

The opposition MPs in their short discussion alleged that the bill was ‘aimed at suppressing and repressing’ the opposition movements over the restoration of the caretaker government ahead of the national polls scheduled to be held in early 2014.

Home Minister Muhiuddin Khan Alamgir rejected the opposition allegations saying that the proposed law was for making Bangladesh’s anti-terror act-2009 consistent with the contemporary UN resolutions on terrorism. Muhiuddin Khan also said the amendment was a necessity, he said.
In line with its election pledge of ‘zero tolerance’ for violence, Awami League government enacted the Anti-Terrorism Act-2009 and amended it in 2012. The original law stipulated capital punishment as highest punishment for terrorism and subversive activities depending upon the extent of the crimes.

This amended law stipulates that the police officer concerned will immediately inform the district magistrates about the occurrence of a crime that come under the purview of the act and file cases against the persons or entity or foreign national.

‘In future, the popular movement for restoration of the caretaker government will get momentum. The law is aimed at crushing the opposition,’ Moudud Ahmad told the parliament just before the walkout.

‘In 1974 a black law was passed and it was used against the opposition. The proposed amendment to anti-terrorism law has all provisions to repress the opposition,’ Moudud said adding, ‘Send the bill to the select committee for further scrutiny before its passage.’

Acting chief whip of the opposition Shahiduddin Chowdhury told the JS that they would have no other option but to walk out if the bill is passed. ‘In 2002, we had passed a law and now it is used against us,’ he said.

‘This is not anti-terrorism law rather a tool for handling the opposition parties with an iron hand,’ Fazlul Azim, the lone independent MP told the parliament.

‘The law will turn the country into a police state,’ said AM Mahbub Uddin Khokon, a lawyer.
Jafrul Islam Chowdhury said this was not clear why the government initiated to pass such anti-terrorism law though so many laws already exist.

BNP MPs Harunur Rashid, Nazim Uddin Ahmed, Syeda Asifa Ashrafi Papia, ZIM Mostfa Ali, Lutfor Rahman, Begum Nilufar Chowdhury Moni, AKM Hafizur Rahman, Rasheda Begum Hira, Rehana and Akter Ranu in chorus in the House opposed the proposed law.

The opposition MPs joined parliament on June 3, the first day of the budget session. Earlier, they walked out of the House three times.

Source: New Age