The Attorney General’s (AG) office has drafted a new anti-terrorism bill that would grant exclusive authority to the president to declare groups as terrorist organisations.
The 39-page draft defines terrorist organisations as a group of people acting as a whole, which carries out or has the purpose of destroying properties or carrying out acts of brutality.
The draft legislation proposes restricting constitutional rights upon arrest for terrorism suspects – including the right to remain silent and access to legal counsel – and criminalises flying overseas to fight in foreign wars.
Inciting violence at demonstrations and threatening the country’s independence and sovereignty will be considered acts of terrorism.
Other terrorism offences include kidnapping, abduction, hijacking, endangering public health or safety, and damaging important infrastructure. The bill specifies penalties of up to 25 years in jail.
Committing any of the offences for the purpose of creating terror among the public or promoting a political or religious ideology will also be a terrorist offence.
The bill also authorises the home ministry to carry out extensive surveillance of suspects.
Encouraging terrorism, an act which carries a 10 to 15 years jail sentence, is defined as “a speech or statement perceived by the public as encouragement of terrorism.”
Circulating messages or statements of a terrorist organisation is also a crime with a jail sentence of seven to 10 years.
A draft of the bill has been shared with the Maldives Police Service and the prosecutor general’s (PG) office.
Attorney general Mohamed Anil told CNM today that his office is seeking comments from stakeholders and that the bill will be submitted when parliament returns from recess next month.
The bill is likely to pass as the ruling Progressive Party of Maldives and coalition partner Maldives Development Alliance controls a simple majority of the 85-member house.
The PG office will have to file charges against a person suspected of terrorism within 15 days and the courts will have to reach a verdict within 30 days.
The home minister will meanwhile have powers to apply for a ‘monicon’ (monitoring and control) order to tag, intercept communications and conduct surveillance on terrorism suspects.
The minister can seek a monicon order if the suspect commits an act that endangers the community.
The minister does not have to inform the suspect and the court is not obliged to summon the suspect before issuing the order.
If a monicon order has been issued the police can order the person to live at a selected house if the suspect has multiple residences, restrict travelling and search the person, his home, suspected whereabouts on any time without an additional court order.
If the law is passed, the Anti-Terrorism Act of 1990 will be dissolved.
Former president Mohamed Nasheed and ex-minister Tholhath Ibrahim were charged under the terrorism law over the military’s detention of a judge in January 2012. The pair were found guilty and sentenced to 13 years and 10 years in prison, respectively, last month.