[JURIST] A Malaysian court Tuesday rejected a bid to free five prominent members of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) [Wikipedia backgrounder], ruling that they were lawfully detained under Malaysia's controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) [HRW backgrounder], which permits the government to detain suspects for two years without trial and to renew the detention indefinitely. The five were arrested [JURIST report] in December for allegedly orchestrating a November street demonstration [TIME report] by thousands of the nation's ethnic Indians in Kuala Lumpur. The rally, which drew an estimated 20,000 protesters, was sparked by complaints that the predominantly Malay Muslim government economically discriminates against ethnic Indians and other minorities. The five plan to appeal the court's decision.
The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy website] last month urged Malaysia to lift the ISA [JURIST report], saying it is contrary to fundamental human rights [press release] and is being used to stifle peaceful dissent against the government. FIDH also said that the five Hindraf protesters would not receive a fair trial as long as the law is in effect. AP has more.