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Australia plans to toughen terror laws, track teen suspects

Australia has outlined expanded counterterrorism laws that would allow for the restriction of movement of "suspects" as young as 14. The measure follows the shooting of a police employee by a teenager.

Australian Attorney General George Brandis told national broadcaster ABC on Tuesday that there was a need for police to be able to investigate younger teens.

Brandis announced that it would be possible to hold teenagers as young as 14 in police custody for up to 28 days under the new legislation. He said the "Islamic State" (IS) was targeting increasingly younger recruits.

"Fourteen is not too young an age for an order of this kind to be made," Brandis said on national radio. "Unfortunately the reach of ISIL and ISIL surrogates and agents in Australia is extending to younger and younger people." ISIL is another name for IS.

Shock murder of police employee

The attorney general said the shooting of a civilian police office worker by a 15-year-old on October 2 was evidence that such action was needed. Farhad Jabar

shot employee Curtis Cheng in the back of the head

in Sydney and had been reportedly shouting religious slogans before he was fatally gunned down by police.

Brandis said there would be safeguards for minors and limitations on questioning that was "unreasonable."

"The new laws will, among other things, lower the age at which a control order can be applied from 16 to 14 years of age," Brandis had said in an earlier statement, referring to an order that allows movement and activities to be restricted.

'Obvious breach of rights'

The new laws would be in breach of human rights standards, according to Stephen Banks, president of the New South Wales Council for Civil Liberties.

"The idea of detaining 14-year-old children for questioning without charge, and secretly for long periods of time, should be obviously unacceptable to the whole community," Banks said.

The Australian government is worried about possible lone-wolf attacks and has already stopped Australians trying to leave the country to conflict zones like Syria and Iraq.

Terror suspects can currently be held for four hours before a court order must be made to extend this to eight days. Under the proposed legislation, the initial period would be four days with a subsequent legal request to extend this to 28 days.

rc/jr (AFP, dpa)

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