[JURIST] Five prominent members of the Hindu Rights Action Force [organization website] who are being detained in Malaysia [JURIST report] "have been deprived of their personal liberty in defiance of the law," a defense lawyer argued at a Wednesday Federal Court hearing. The five activists are accused of being involved in orchestrating a November 2007 street demonstration [TIME report] in Kuala Lumpur by thousands of the nation's ethnic Indians to protest alleged discrimination by the predominantly Malay Muslim government. Last month, a Malaysian court rejected a bid to free the five [JURIST report], finding that they were lawfully detained under the country's controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) [HRW backgrounder]. In an appeal of that decision, the detainees' lawyer argued that the detentions are illegal as the five protesters should have been first held in police custody for 60 days before being sent to the detention center where they are currently imprisoned, which would have given the detainees an opportunity to demonstrate their innocence. The Malaysia Star has more. The New Straits Times has additional coverage.
The 2007 arrests were the first time since 2001 that Malaysia has invoked the ISA against government critics. The ISA is a preventive detention law that allows the Malaysian government to detain suspects for two years without trial and to renew the detention indefinitely. Three Hindu activists originally arrested before the protest and charged with sedition were subsequently released [BBC reports]. In December, 26 ethnic Indians were charged with attempted murder [JURIST report] in connection with the Kuala Lumpur protest.