Malaysian opposition protests camp

KAMUNTING, Malaysia, Reuters

More than 100 opposition supporters demonstrated outside a Malaysian detention camp on Sunday as protests grew against the detention of six political activists under a tough security law.

Chanting slogans outside the Kamunting camp in northern Perak state, the protesters called for the abolition of Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA) and the release of all held under it.

Four of the detainees, all of them supporters of jailed former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, are being held at the camp, some three hours drive from Kuala Lumpur. Some family members were allowed in on Sunday to meet them.

“Abolish ISA!, Release all ISA political prisoners,” they shouted under the blistering sun. Nearly three dozen riot and regular police looked on.

Police arrested 10 pro-Anwar activists under the ISA in April, accusing them of planning violent protests and seeking weapons and explosives to threaten the lives of government leaders.

Opposition politicians and lawyers representing the imprisoned men have derided the police accusations.

Two weeks ago, Home (Interior) Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi ordered four of the men to be detained in Kamunting for up to two years.

Four others have been released, while the remaining two were still being held by police and awaiting their fate.

The four held at Kamunting included Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor and Tian Chua, both leaders of Parti Keadilan Nasional which champions Anwar’s cause and calls for political and judicial reform in Malaysia after 20 years of rule by Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.

“Dr. Mahathir’s time is very short. The man is afraid of us. Our spirit is strong and I will continue with the struggle,” Ezam’s wife Bahira Tajul Arif told reporters in Kamunting.

On Friday, riot police in Kuala Lumpur broke up a protest by about 500 anti-ISA supporters. Seven were arrested after the police broke up the protest at the National Mosque.

Human rights activists in Hong Kong held a protest and launched a 24-hour hunger strike on Friday to demand the release of the six detainees. Similar protests were also held in London and Sydney, Malaysian human rights group Suaram said.

Under the security law, police can lock up without trial anyone deemed a security risk for 60 days, and for two more years if the government approves.

Anwar was jailed for 15 years on sex and graft charges he says were trumped up to stop a 1998 challenge to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Mahathir says Anwar’s trials were fair.