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Amnesty criticises new terror law

An Indian police officer stands guard at India Gate in New Delhi on December 17, 2008.
Indian security forces are under pressure after the attacks

Rights group Amnesty International has criticised India's proposed new anti-terror laws.

The new laws allow suspects to be detained without bail for up to six months on the orders of a judge and tighten other procedures.

Parliament has approved the new bills and they now require the president's approval before becoming law.

The legislation follows last month's attacks in the city of Mumbai which left more than 170 people dead.

'Infringement'

India's government has been under intense pressure following the attacks to reform the country's intelligence and security systems.

New anti-terror laws along with a new federal investigation agency are seen as a first step in its response.

Amnesty International has called on India's President Pratibha Patil not to approve the legislation.

"While we utterly condemn the attacks and recognise that the Indian authorities have a right and duty to take effective measures to ensure the security of the population, security concerns should never be used to jeopardise people's human rights," Madhu Malhotra, of Amnesty International, said in a statement.

It criticised moves to close some courts to public proceedings, to tighten bail laws on illegal immigrants and to require some defendants to prove innocence.

Amnesty said that "India's experience with previous anti-terrorism laws has shown that they can lead to abusive practices".

Interior ministry officials have not yet commented on the group's statement.

India's Communist parties and some Muslim groups have expressed concerns over the new laws.

"To detain a person for up to 180 days will be an infringement of his human rights. We are against it," Basudeb Acharia of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) told the Associated Press.

Home Minister P Chidambaram has said the new laws balance the ability of the security agencies to prosecute with the need to protect individual freedom and human rights.

The Congress-led government scrapped a previous anti-terror law following criticism that it was misused and targeted the Muslim community.

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