MEDIA RELEASE: Confusion Reigns Over Terror Laws
SYDNEY, 30 June 2005 - A Muslim Civil Rights advocacy group has pointed to the confusing commentary regarding the recent ASIO raids as evidence that the government's new anti-terrorism legislation is too complex.
ASIO has recently executed search warrants on properties in Melbourne and Sydney, as part of an effort to disrupt a supposed terrorist cell. In much of the media commentary surrounding the raids, Muslim and non-Muslim spokespeople have claimed that those individuals raided have been unable to speak about the raids due to secrecy provisions.
"It is not surprising that there was confusion over whether or not the subjects of the warrants were gagged as a result of the execution of the warrants," said Ms. Agnes Chong, convenor of the Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network (AMCRAN). "Under the new anti-terrorism legislation ASIO now has a wide range of powers to pick and choose from, and some of them impose a gag on the subjects and some do not."
AMCRAN maintains its opposition to the imposition of secrecy provisions. "If a person is detained and questioned under the new ASIO powers, it becomes a criminal offence for that individual to tell anyone -- even their family members -- that they have been questioned," explained Ms. Chong. "A person may be held for up to seven days away and yet they are not allowed to tell family members or employers where they have been. However, in the case of homes that were raided under search warrants, both individuals and media can talk freely."
The confusion that has characterized media coverage of the raids shows that the laws are inordinately complex. "How can the government expect ordinary Australians to understand their responsibilities and rights under the new legislation?", asked Ms. Chong. "Clearly, these laws are ridiculously complex and, even on that basis alone, need to be reformed."
Recognising the complexity of the new anti-terrorism legislation, AMCRAN recently published a booklet, "Terror Laws: ASIO, The Police and You" explaining, in plain English, people’s rights and responsibilities under the legislation.
AMCRAN has made numerous submissions and presentations to senate committees on the raft of anti-terrorism legislation introduced by the government since September 11 expressing their opposition to many of the new powers granted to ASIO.
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