Morocco votes new 'terror' law

The Moroccan parliament, in the wake of the recent bombings, has overwhelmingly voted in favour of a controversial anti-terrorism law that will stiffen penalties and ease police work.

    The new bill broadens the
    defination of 'terrorism' 

    The bill, which broadens the definition of terrorism, has drawn stiff opposition from human  rights groups.

    An individual or a group that aims to breach public order through terror and violence could be defined "terrorist", under it.

    Among other measures, the anti-terrorism bill allows for phone tapping, nighttime searches, and also lengthens the permissible period of detention without charge.

    The upper house of parliament on Tuesday passed the bill with 89 votes in favour and seven abstentions. The 

    lower house had already cleared it.

    Human rights groups claim that the new law goes against the grain of Morocco's efforts to shake off an image of repressive rule associated with King Hassan II, who died in 1999.

    King Mohammed VI: Seen as
    having failed to liberalise

    His son and successor,  Mohammed VI, is widely seen as having failed to deliver on earlier pledges of liberalisation.

    Responding to rights groups' protests over an initial text, the government announced amendments aimed at guaranteeing civil liberties.

    The government had withdrawn the bill for amendment in April, after fierce criticism from Moroccan human rights groups.

    The groups have accused the security forces of launching a "vast kidnapping campaign" targeting mainly suspected Al Qaida members and Islamist groups.

    In a joint open letter, they said dozens of Moroccans and foreigners had been kidnapped since last May by intelligence services.

    In some cases, they were held for several months "in secret locations" where they were allegedly subjected to "acts of physical and psychological torture and ceaseless interrogations."

    The law, which enters into effect once it is published in the government gazette, also expands the number of crimes punishable by death.


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