Kenya refuses to suspend tough anti-terrorism law

2014-12-25 12:08

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Nairobi - The High Court of Kenya declined Wednesday to suspend a tough new anti-terrorism law that the opposition says violates human rights, local media reported.

Judge Isaac Lenaola said the government needed to be given a chance to prepare its defence against the legal challenge lodged by the main opposition Coalition for Reform and Democracy (Cord), after losing a parliamentary battle last week to stop passage of the legislation.

Lenaola gave the government until Monday to file its response.

"We are hoping for justice, and we think the process so far has been fair. Justice for Cord in this case is justice for Kenya and Kenyans," Cord legislator Irshad Sumra said after the court session.

The law allows police to hold terrorist suspects for up to a year, from 90 days previously, and intelligence services to tap telephones without warrants.

Journalists publishing material undermining security-related investigations or photographs of terrorism victims without police permission can be jailed for up to three years.

The opposition says the law violates the constitution and could turn Kenya into a dictatorship. Rights groups and Western countries have warned that the law could open the door to human rights abuses.

Debate on the legislation turned to physical brawling last week when opposition legislators tried to block law in parliament. Several senators who joined the debate in the lower house sustained minor injuries.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has faced mounting pressure to tighten security since the Somali Islamist group al-Shabaab killed at least 67 people in September 2013 at a Nairobi shopping mall.

A string of smaller attacks has followed, with al-Shabaab killing more than 60 people over the past four weeks in Kenya.

"We need to be able to confront terror and other forms of crime as a united nation," Kenyatta said Wednesday in his Christmas message.

Read more on:    al-shabaab  |  uhuru kenyatta  |  kenya  |  east africa  |  security
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