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Last Updated: Tuesday, 15 July, 2003, 17:19 GMT 18:19 UK
Kenya's terror bill rejected
(From l to r) Mohamed Kubwa Seif, Mohamed Kubwa and Said Saggar Ahmed, three suspected men of attacking an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa
Kenyan muslims fear that the bill will target their followers
A Kenyan parliamentary committee has opposed a new draft bill aimed at combating terrorism in the East African nation.

Their decision coincided with hundreds of protestors taking to the streets of the Kenyan capital, Nairobi, to voice their opposition to the Suppression of Terrorism Bill.

A statement from the Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs Committee said that the proposed bill "threatens to tear apart the very fabric of one nation and could offer fertile ground for inter-religious animosity and suspicion".

Kenyan Muslims, who make up 30% of the country's 31 million people, have been expressing fears that the bill targets them.

Justice and Constitutional Affairs Minister Kiraitu Murungi says that the bill is supposed to meet certain concerns of national security and that there is no clause that targets the Muslim community.

Terrorism is a political crime that calls for political solutions
Kenya's Administration of Justice and Legal Affairs Committee

The bill allows police to arrest and search property without authority from the courts, and allows investigators to detain suspected terrorists for 36 hours without allowing them contact to the outside world.

Extremist groups

Mr Kiraitu has urged Muslims to scrutinise the bill and point out what clauses discriminated against them.

The bill also outlaws the wearing of clothes that are closely associated with extremist groups.

The government says it will not withdraw its position on the suppression of the terrorism bill 2003.

But the parliamentary legal committee says that terrorism does not necessarily need legislation since it "is a political crime that calls for political solutions".

Surveying the wreckage of the Paradise Hotel
Kenya has been hit twice by terrorists

The bill has generated heated public debate and strong criticism, with the main opposition party, Kenya Africa National Union (Kanu) and a number of MPs from the ruling Narc coalition describing it as foreign and unworkable in Kenya.

Legal experts and human rights groups in Kenya have dismissed the bill as an absurd imitation of the US Patriot Act 2001, the South African Terrorism Bill 2002 and Britain's Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001.

"While the US Patriot Act is crafted in such a manner that targets foreigners and preserves the fundamental rights of American citizens, our own legislation seeks to reinvent the suppression of the fundamental rights and throws the bill of rights out of the window," the statement said.

'Military base'

Kanu, the opposition party, has vowed to reject the bill, calling it a "step along the way to the setting up of a US military base in Kenya".

Kenya has twice been hit by extremist attacks, first in 1998 when a car bomb blew up the US embassy in Nairobi, killing 213 people, and again in 2002 when 18 people were killed in bomb blast of an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombassa.

Kenya announced in June that intelligence reports showed that extremists were planning more attacks in the country, a warning that triggered immediate travel advisories by several Western countries, including a ban on flights to the country which was later lifted.

The government charged four Kenyans in connection with the Mombasa attack, an act seen as aimed at mollifying the United States, which has accused Kenya of not doing enough to counter terror threats.




SEE ALSO:
Terror threat shuts US embassy
20 Jun 03  |  Africa
Kenyan tourism faces meltdown
19 Jun 03  |  Business
East Africa's security nightmare
15 May 03  |  Africa
Kenya fears al-Qaeda attack
14 May 03  |  Africa


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