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Philippines Signs Anti-Terror Law at Six-Nation Meeting


Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed an anti-terrorism bill into law as six Asia-Pacific nations, including the Philippines, wrapped up a two-day meeting in Jakarta aimed at increased cooperation in fighting militants in the region. VOA's Nancy-Amelia Collins in Jakarta has more.

Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed into law an anti-terrorism bill that has long been sought by lawmakers, but which has raised concerns of abuses by civil rights activists.

The Human Security Act upholds the right of the authorities to detain suspects for three days without charge, instead of the 30 days sought by police, and allows court-authorized surveillance of suspected terrorists.

It compels the state to pay compensation of more than $10,000 a day to any person wrongfully detained. And it exempts journalists, doctors, and lawyers from disclosing details about terrorists. It also bans extraordinary rendition - the practice by the CIA of arresting foreign terror suspects and sending them to a third country for interrogation.

As the law was being signed in Manila, an anti-terrorism meeting in Jakarta attended by the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and co-host Australia wrapped up with pledges of closer cooperation in fighting terrorism.

Indonesian Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda warned the region against complacency.

"We must not be complacent as we have not yet won the struggle," he said. "Terrorism remains a clear and present threat and the terrorists are still capable of inflicting severe damage to our communities. They are still recruiting new operatives and developing new strategies and tactics. We must therefore gird ourselves for wider and intensified struggle."

The Indonesian foreign minister said countries had agreed to intensify law enforcement to prevent trans-border terrorist movements, and would explore further ways to counter extremism in a seminar in the near future.

Australian foreign minister Alexander Downer praised the conference, saying regional cooperation was essential to prevent further terrorist attacks.

"I think this has been a really successful exercise reflecting the strength of cooperation that there is in the sub-region and there needs to be," he said. "I mean let us make it perfectly clear that the cooperation is essential if we are going to be successful in countering terrorism."

During the past few years, Indonesia has suffered a series of deadly bombings blamed on the al-Qaida linked regional terrorist group Jemaah Islamiyah. The Philippines has experienced several terrorist attacks by the Jemaah Islamiyah-linked Abu Sayyaf.

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