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Malaysia opposition urges release of ethnic Indian protesters held under security law

[JURIST] Malaysia's opposition Democratic Action Party (DAP) [party website] on Saturday denounced [statement text] the government's refusal to release five prominent members of the Hindu Rights Action Force, including M. Manoharan who was recently elected to the state legislature. 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, and have since been held without trial under Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA) [HRW backgrounder]. While detained, Manoharan ran for a seat in the state legislature as a member of the DAP and won in Malaysia's March 8 election. Malaysian Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar, citing national security concerns, said that Manoharan may be sworn into office, but that he will not be released to attend state assembly sessions. The DAP said that the ruling National Front (BN) [party website] has failed to hear the voice of the people who called for a more democratic and progressive Malaysia in the elections, in which the BN lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority and suffered its biggest defeat to date.

The detentions were originally upheld [JURIST report] in February after a Malaysian court ruled that the men were lawfully held under the controversial ISA, which permits the government to detain suspects for two years without trial and to renew the detention indefinitely. Both the DAP and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy website] say the law is being used to silence political dissidents and that it violates fundamental human rights. In January, the FIDH urged Malaysia to revoke the act [JURIST report]. AP has more. The Star has local coverage.

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