Malaysia mulls over anti-terror law

Malaysia mulls over anti-terror law
A member loyal to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) waves an ISIL flag in Raqqa June 29, 2014.

MALAYSIA - Malaysia's Home Minister wants an anti-terror law to patch the lack of preventive measures in recently enacted security laws that experts say have let several suspects slip through the cracks.

At least 37 suspects linked to the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have been detained since April but more, including key recruiters, remain at large.

The Home Ministry will propose an anti-terrorism law to strengthen existing legislation to allow early prevention of recruitment, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said on Sunday.

He was responding to statements by a former national police chief that current laws - such as the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, and the Prevention of Crime Act (Poca) - were insufficient to curb Islamic militancy in the country.

Datuk Seri Zahid gave no further details, but a ministry official told The Straits Times yesterday that some areas of the Poca "may be improved but this is subject to discussion".

The authorities and anti-crime organisations have complained that the burden of evidence is too high under the existing legislation to detain terror suspects before they leave to join ISIS.

Malaysia enacted Sosma in 2012 to replace the Internal Security Act (ISA) which critics said was abused by the government to imprison political opponents without trial. However, a spate of violent crimes last year saw the reintroduction of preventive detention in amendments to Poca.

But police counter-terrorism chief Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay insists the requirements to arrest terror suspects are still too high, resulting in many being allowed to leave for Syria despite the police having had knowledge of their plans.

He said the police have taken to arresting suspects in the hope of gaining the evidence needed and "to stop them from going, even though we may not have enough evidence to charge them".

With recruitment largely being done online, evidence is hard to come by. "Most people we arrested had deleted everything from their handphones," Mr Ayob Khan said.

This article was first published on October 21, 2014.
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