The law was first enacted in 2009 after the December 2008 elections while it was amended last year incorporating some provisions.

Bangladesh’s parliament amended the tough anti-terrorism law re-defining “terrorism” and allowing courts to accept internet materials as evidence, amid protests from opposition which feared it was designed to target them.

“The (anti-terror) bill suggests provisions to effectively control terrorism through inter-state cooperation. It offers the central bank the authority to freeze suspicious accounts without court orders,” Home minister Mahiuddin Khan Alamgir told the parliament as law was passed overnight.

The law was first enacted in 2009 when the incumbent Awami League assumed office after the December 2008 elections while it was amended last year incorporating some provisions.

But officials familiar with the drafting of the law said the fresh bill, which now awaits routine presidential assent, was also required to overcome “some shortcomings” particularly in areas of inter-state cooperation and checking terror financing.

They said the new law tended to re-define the term terrorism incorporating the wider issues of cyber crime and law enforcement agencies now could submit as evidence internet chats and images. “You must have witnessed changing patterns of terrorism using internet while people are being burnt to death inside passenger buses. What is the wrong in enacting a law to prevent crimes,” Law Minister Shafique Ahmed told PTI.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) briefly walked out of the House as the bill was passed in voice vote.

BNP called it a “black law” to control the opponents while the provisions of the law were “contrary to the constitution.”

“The law will be used to snatch people’s human rights, basic rights and constitutional rights. It has been formulated in a bid to add a new dimension to their (government) ongoing repressive acts against the opposition and intensify their repression further,” BNP leader Maudud Ahmed told the House.

But incumbent Law Minister said he was surprised why the opposition was frightened when the law was amended to deal with the newer dimensions of terrorism and “its (opposition allegation) sounds like robbers are saying why anti-robbery law is being enacted.”

Home Minister Alamgir said the law was not framed to target the opposition. “I want to hold out the assurance that no gentleman or gentlewoman will be harassed under the law,” Mr. Alamgir added.