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Sri Lankan Parliament passes law allowing police to question suspects 2 days without charges

  • eb1c738eaaa65502270f6a70670035f9.jpg

    Opposition activists demonstrate against a proposed legislation in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. Sri Lanka’s Parliament is debating a legislation that gives police powers to detain and question a suspect for two days, which critics say is part of government’s suppression of dissent. The placard in center reads as “No suppressive laws, Let live.” (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe) (The Associated Press)

  • dd140cabaaa75502270f6a706700a20a.jpg

    An opposition activist shouts during a demonstration against a proposed legislation in Colombo, Sri Lanka, Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2013. Sri Lanka’s Parliament is debating a legislation that gives police powers to detain and question a suspect for two days, which critics say is part of government’s suppression of dissent. (AP Photo/Gemunu Amarasinghe) (The Associated Press)

Sri Lanka's Parliament on Tuesday approved legislation giving police the ability to detain and question suspects for two days without charges, which critics say is part of the government's suppression of dissent.

Cabinet minister Anura Yapa said the legislation is aimed at curbing organized crime. Previously, police could detain suspects for only 24 hours without charges.

The bill was passed by a large majority in Parliament, where more than two-thirds of the lawmakers belong to President Mahinda Rajapaksa's ruling coalition.

Lawyer and activist Chandrapala Kumarage called the law "draconian" and said suspects could be subjected to torture during the extended detention period, which could also give police enough time to fabricate a case.

Hundreds of protesters demonstrated in Colombo on Tuesday saying the provisions could be used by the government against dissidents, workers and students who are demanding their rights.

Parliament and Rajapaksa recently removed the country's chief justice, a move the opposition says was aimed at solidifying the Rajapaksa family's hold on power.