Dutch Parliament Approves Wiretapping, Surveillance in Anti-Terror Measure

The Dutch parliament approved new anti-terrorism measures Tuesday that make it easier to arrest suspects without strong evidence and hold them longer without charge.

Prosecutors will be able to approve surveillance, infiltration or wiretapping of suspects even when there is not "reasonable suspicion" that a suspect may have committed a criminal act.

The new law, which goes into effect immediately, is the latest of many enacted in the Netherlands since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the U.S.

"Evidence a terrorist attack is being prepared" will be enough to make an arrest, the Justice Ministry said in a statement. "The result is that unusual investigation methods can be used more quickly against terror ... terrorists aren't easily deterred by the threat of heavy punishments."

Earlier changes have included allowing the use of evidence gathered by the secret service in criminal trials, banning membership in a terrorist group and increased penalties for terrorism-related crimes.

The new law also will expand the practice of allowing spot searches by police without probable cause in "airports, industrial complexes, sports stadiums and government buildings."

"Police will be able to preventatively search people, and vehicles or things without permission of a prosecutor" or judge, the ministry said.

Finally, the law increases the period of time a suspect can be held without charge from three to 14 days.

"During this period, grave concerns (of a crime) are no longer required in cases where a terrorist crime is suspected; a reasonable suspicion is enough," it said.

There has been little protest about the loss of civil liberties from such laws in the Netherlands, where trust in government is traditionally strong.

Although Dutch prosecutors lost several high-profile cases against terrorism suspects in 2002 and 2003, they have won an equal number of important convictions under the new laws. Most notable was the conviction in March of nine Muslim men of membership in the so-called "Hofstad" terrorist network.

They included homegrown radical Mohammed Bouyeri, the Amsterdam-born son of Moroccan immigrants who was earlier sentenced to life in prison for the murder of filmmaker Theo van Gogh.

Other alleged members of the same group are awaiting trial on separate charges.