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SUVA, Fiji (Fijitimes, Oct. 23) – The Fiji Muslim League is concerned at proposed Australian anti-terror laws that openly discriminate against Muslims who have ties with fundamentalist terrorist groups.

League president and senator Afzal Khan said the concerns had been raised with the Australian government through informal meetings in Suva.

Mr. Khan said he had spoken to Australian High Commission officials in Fiji who wanted the league's opinions about Muslims in Fiji.

"I did explain the overall general satisfaction and comfort level that we don't want the peace in Fiji to be disturbed but at the same time we recognize that Muslims share worries about things becoming difficult for them," he said.

Australia's proposed anti-terror laws could require Muslims who have trained with terrorist organizations - like Al Qaeda, Jemaah Islamiah, LET, Abu Sayyaf and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – to wear tracking devices, be prevented from working, or using the telephone or Internet, or communicating with certain people on Australian soil.

"It's obviously discriminating against those who are specifically linked to those organizations but it's certainly different for Muslims in Fiji and in the Pacific," Mr. Khan said.

Up to 80 Australian Muslims could immediately be placed under effective house arrest under the proposed anti-terror laws.

Previously, the Australian government had no effective powers over these people, almost all of whom are Muslims, because laws prohibiting training with terrorist groups came into force only in July 2002 and were not retrospective.

However, under the proposed new laws, such people can be subjected to tough so-called control orders if authorities still believe they pose a security risk.

The provisions, which until now have escaped public scrutiny, are aimed at helping authorities monitor people who have trained with terror groups and are still deemed to pose a potential risk.

The Australian Muslim Civil Rights Advocacy Network criticized the new proposed laws and labeled it as "a way to limit the freedoms of people who can't be found guilty of a crime".

The proposed laws will apply to anyone who has trained overseas with any of the 17 banned terror groups, including Al-Qaeda.

The intent of the law is that authorities leave these people alone, if it is considered they no longer pose a security risk.

But if they are deemed to be a threat, the Australian government can impose a wide range of restrictions on their freedom.

These include requiring a person be fingerprinted and photographed, and they report to specific places at specific times.

Australian authorities have long expressed frustration that they had no legal powers to more effectively monitor those Australians who trained with terrorist groups before 2002.

They said less than 10 per cent of people in Australia who have, or had, a substantive involvement with Al-Qaeda, JI and other like-minded groups, would ever face a court of law.

October 24, 2005


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