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Singapore Defends Internal Security Law - 2003-06-04

Singapore has defended its internal security law used to detained suspected Islamic terrorists. Amnesty International has criticized the law as violating basic civil and legal rights. Singapore's Ministry of Home Affairs rejected Amnesty International annual report last week condemning the city-state's Internal Security Act.

The ISA allows authorities to detain suspected terrorists for up to two years without trial. Amnesty says the law presumes guilt without fair and open legal due process. The law has been used to detain more than 30 suspected terrorists from the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiyah. They are alleged to have plotted to bomb U.S. and other foreign missions in Singapore and some have been in custody for 18 months.

The Home Affairs Ministry Wednesday issued a statement saying the ISA does not deny the right to a fair trial because "the review mechanism under the Internal Security Act ensures that this right is observed according to the law."

Singapore officials also note that detainees have right to a legal defense, to hire an attorney of their choice and to appear before a review board while in detention. The review board is headed by a Supreme Court judge and has two members who are private citizens and not employed by the government.

But Amnesty International says that 18 suspects arrested last August were denied access to lawyers and relatives during the first few weeks of their detention.

Singapore's Home Affairs Ministry say the ISA has been an effective tool in thwarting terrorism and protecting Singapore and neighboring countries from attacks. Singapore has been praised by the United States for its strong and pro-active stand against terrorism in the region.

Jememaah Islamiyah, or JI is accused, of having links to Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network. It has been blamed for the bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali last year, which killed more than 200 people, primarily tourists.