ABSTRACT- Internal and external factors often shape the legal definitions of ‘terrorist’ at the domestic level. In Malaysia, the internal factors include its colonial legacy and prevailing political culture. The external factor can be traced from the formulation of the present definitions of ‘terrorist’, ‘terrorist group’ and ‘terrorist act’ in the Penal Code. The definitions were included in the Code in 2007, corresponding with the global trend in countering terrorism through the criminal justice system. This study set out to assess the origin and legislative intent behind the formulation of the definitions, as well as how these legal definitions have been interpreted and applied in terrorism-related trials. This doctrinal legal exploration is based on judicial interpretation of legal texts, as well as historical and political contexts. Accordingly, this study has identified the roots of the definitions, which are based on the proposal made by the Commonwealth Secretariat, and arguably in line with obligations imposed on Malaysia by virtue of the UN Security Council Resolution 1373. As a product of policy transfer, the definitions have been translated and interpreted based on the local settings and existing terrorism threats. This paper ascertained and classified two critical approaches adopted by Malaysian judges in dealing with definitional issues. The first approach deals with the action-based perspective, where a judge would focus on the terroristic acts committed or plotted. Another approach operates based on the label, either based on judicial notice, or government’s proscription or the evidence given by terrorism experts.
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