Sydney, Australia, Sep 30 (EFE).- New Zealand on Thursday passed a law that classifies the planning of a terrorist attack as a crime, closing a legal loophole thrust into the spotlight after a man injured seven people in a stabbing spree in an Auckland supermarket earlier this month.
While the law had been months in the planning, it was rushed through parliament after the Sep. 3 attack by 32-year-old Sri Lankan Ahamed Aathil Mohamed Samsudeen, who the government said was inspired by the Islamic State terror group.
“The Bill strengthens our laws to fight the ever evolving nature of terrorism and closes longstanding gaps in our counter terrorism legislation to better protect New Zealanders,” Minister of Justice Kris Faafoi said in a statement.
“The new counter terrorism law’s major change is to add the criminal offense of planning or preparation for a terrorist act.”
Samsudeen had for more than 50 days been under round-the-clock surveillance by police, who feared he would launch an attack, but did not have legal reasons to detain him.
He was shot dead by police about a minute after he began stabbing people with a knife from the store.
In the wake of the attack, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised the approval of the law by the end of September.
The new crime of preparing or planning a terrorist act is punishable by up to seven years in prison under the law, expected to enter into force on Oct. 4.
It also criminalizes weapons or combat training for a terror attack and travel to or from New Zealand to commit an attack of this type, and expands the ability to crack down on people supporting terror organizations.
The bill passed its third reading in parliament Thursday with the support of the two major parties, Ardern’s ruling Labour and the opposition National, but was opposed by the Maori Party, Green Party and ACT.
The Greens expressed concern that the legislation may “capture direct action activists and protests,” and that the planning offense could be characterized as a thought crime, among other reasons, while ACT said the bill had been rushed and could impede on rights. EFE