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Nepal government tightens anti-terror law

[JURIST] Nepal's royal government has made its anti-terrorism law more stringent by introducing a fifth amendment to the Terrorists and Disruptive Activities (Control and Punishment) Ordinance (TADO), published in the official gazette on Monday. National and international human rights organizations are concerned that independent media and even parties fighting for democracy in this country hard hit by the 10-year Maoist insurgency could fall within the ambit of the new version.

Under the amended law, those who are in contact with the Maoists [BBC backgrounder], who have been labeled as terrorists by the Nepalese government, will be treated as accomplices, and the activities of those accomplices will be considered to be a "crime related to terrorism and disruption." This new provision could implicate pro-democratic parties currently in close contact with the Maoists that have entered into a written understanding with them to fight against what they called an "autocratic king."

The latest TADO, which received royal approval on March 26 before being publicly released, has also made dissemination of Maoist-related information punishable. This provision could implicate media and journalists who have been facing troubles since King Gyanendra [official website; BBC profile] assumed executive power and suspended democracy [JURIST report] in a bloodless coup on February 1, 2005.

"An individual who disseminates the information of the terrorists could face one to three years of imprisonment or Rs 10,000 (around $150 US) to Rs 50,000 (around $750 US ) in fine or both," reads a provision on punishment for dissemination of Maoists' information. Under the new TADO, authorities can also prosecute Maoists accomplices even if real culprit is identified or arrested. This provision was not in the earlier version of the law [text].

Kiran Chapagain is a special correspondent for JURIST writing from Nepal. He is an Assistant Senior Reporter for the Kathmandu Post.

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