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Tunisia lawmakers debate new 'anti-terror' bill

AFP , Wednesday 22 Jul 2015
Essid
Tunisia's Prime Minister Habib Essid addresses the media at the EU Council building in Brussels on Monday July 20, 2015 (Photo: AP)
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Tunisian lawmakers on Wednesday began a three-day debate on a new "anti-terrorism" bill aimed at beefing up powers to confront the threat of jihadism following a spate of deadly attacks.

Prime Minister Habib Essid's government imposed a state of emergency after a student went on a shooting rampage at a beach resort last month, killing 38 foreign tourists, most of them Britons.

Tunisia has come up with several drafts of legislation to deal with "the fight against terrorism and money laundering" since the 2011 revolution but they failed to reach parliament because of a lack of consensus.

The latest version went before lawmakers after winning the backing of the parliament's largest factions, including the Islamist Ennahda party and President Beji Caid Essebsi's Nidaa Tounes.

It would replace the 2003 terrorism law, passed under the dictatorship of Zine El Abidine Ben Ali and widely criticised as being a tool to crush dissent, especially from the then banned Ennahda party.

But advocacy groups including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have already condemned the latest bill.

They have described it as draconian, saying its definition of terrorist crimes is too vague and that it fails to adequately safeguard the rights of defendants and could undermine freedoms.

Essebsi decreed a month-long state of emergency on July 4, eight days after the shooting at the Mediterranean resort of Port El Kantaoui killed 30 Britons, three Irish nationals, two Germans, one Belgian, one Portuguese and a Russian.

That came after two gunmen attacked Tunisia's national museum on March 18, killing 21 people including four Italians, three Japanese, three French, two Spaniards, a Colombian, an Australian-Colombian, a Briton, a Belgian and a Pole.

Both attacks were claimed by the Islamic State group.

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