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Tunisia Passes Anti-Terror Law Following IS Attacks

Abdelfattah Mouro, center, deputy president of the Tunisian Assembly, speaks with deputies during debate on anti-terror legislation in Tunis, July 24, 2015.

Tunisia's parliament voted overwhelmingly Saturday to pass the country's new anti-terror law after a pair of devastating attacks against tourists, but critics fear the new legislation may endanger the North African nation's hard-won freedoms.

Last month, a gunman killed 38 mostly British tourists in the Tunisian seaside city of Sousse. In March, two gunmen killed 21 foreign tourists and a policeman at Tunis' Bardo Museum.

The Islamic State jihadist group claimed both attacks.

Members of parliament approved the bill 174-0 with 10 abstentions early Saturday after three days of debate in what parliament Speaker Mohamed Ennaceur called an "extraordinary effort" to make the North African country a safer place.

Human Rights Watch has criticized the bill, which also eases arrests of suspects, saying it "would open the way to prosecuting political dissent as terrorism, give judges overly broad powers and curtail lawyers' ability to provide an effective defense."

Tunisia stands alone among the countries that underwent the 2011 uprisings of the Arab Spring as having emerged with a democracy. But amid a rise in attacks by Islamic radicals, the new government appears to increasingly consider stability and security over personal freedoms.

"There are many holes in the law that could open the way to human rights violations," said a statement by a coalition of Tunisian 10 civil society groups, including the bar association, the journalists union and several rights groups.

In response to the attacks, the government has mobilized 100,000 additional army and police units around the country, including 3,000 dedicated to guarding hotels and tourist sites.

The new law, which replaces one from 2003, is meant to aid this battle while still respecting human rights, according to Abada Kefi of the parliament's legislation committee, who described it as "a balanced law."