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

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.