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Malaysia police battle demonstrators protesting indefinite detention law

[JURIST] Malaysian police fired a water cannon at protesters in Kuala Lumpur Saturday and chased them with batons as some 300 demonstrated against the country's controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) [HRW backgrounder], a preventive detention law that allows the Malaysian government to detain suspects for two years without trial and to renew the detention indefinitely. The demonstrators were holding a candlelight vigil in peaceful protest against the law, which they say is mostly used to silence opposition groups. The government maintains that the law is necessary for national security.

In November, some 20,000 protesters took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to participate in demonstrations [TIME report] that were sparked by complaints that the predominantly Malay Muslim government economically discriminates against ethnic Indians and other minorities. In their wake, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi [official website; BBC profile] gave permission for Malaysian authorities to rely on the ISA to stop the protests. Twenty-six ethnic Indians were later charged with attempted murder [JURIST report] during a clash with police at a temple compound in connection with the protest. All 26 suspects pleaded not guilty. AP has more.

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