Malaysia’s lower house of parliament has passed a controversial anti-terrorism bill that the government says is needed to tackle the threat from Islamic extremists, BBC News reported.
The bill reintroduces indefinite detention without trial, which Prime Minister Najib Razak repealed in 2012.
Human Rights Watch called the legislation “a giant step backwards for human rights”.
It was passed hours after the police announced the detention of 17 suspected militants believed to be planning attacks in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Home Minister Zahid Hamidi said those arrested, the youngest just 14 years old, were planning to attack police stations and army bases to gather weapons.
Two of the suspects had just returned from Syria, police said.
Under the legislation, suspects can be held without trial for up to two years, with multiple extensions allowed after that.
Decisions on their detention will be made by a terrorism board, rather than the judiciary.
The bill is expected to be passed by the senate, which is dominated by the ruling coalition.
Malaysia scrapped its Internal Security Act — which permitted indefinite detention without trial — in April 2012 amid public concern the government was using that law to stifle political debate and lock up critics.
But it replaced the colonial-era act with power for the government to order 28 days of detention.
Opposition lawmaker N. Surendran was quoted by AFP as saying the new anti-terror law was “open to abuse and is a grievous blow to democracy”.
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