17 September, 2009

With only nine detainees, what need for ISA?

Malaysia on Tuesday freed five terrorism suspects held for up to seven and a half years without trial under a strict security law that has been severely criticized by civil rights groups.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the men were released because they no longer presented a threat.

They had been arrested under the Internal Security Act, accused of involvement in Jemaah Islamiyah, a regional militant network linked to Al Qaeda.

Of the five, Mat Shah Mohd Satray and Abdullah Daud had been in detention since 2002 while Mohd Nasir Ismail, Mohd Kamil Hanafiah and Mohd Amir Hanafiah had been in Kamunting since 2007.

Last month, tens of thousands of people took part in a protest against the law, saying it was outdated and had been abused to jail political dissidents.

With their release, there are now only nine ISA detainees, four of them Malaysians and one each from Thailand, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Singapore.

Of the nine still in detention, Hishammudin said six were involved in militant activities while the others had been involved in the forging of official documents.

Terrorist suspect Mas Selamat Kastari, who was arrested in Johor Baru earlier this year after escaping from Singapore, is the most infamous name of the nine.

In April, the Government had released 13 ISA detainees, followed by another 13 in May.

Meanwhile, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) has questioned the rationale of maintaining a law that has damaged Malaysia’s international reputation merely to keep nine people in detention.

Stressing that there was no longer need for the Internal Security Act (ISA), Suhakam commissioner Datuk N. Siva Subramaniam said the country had other laws that could be used against the remaining detainees.

Of the nine, four had been placed under the ISA for allegedly forging official documents, he said.

“We are of the opinion that they be charged and tried in court.

“With this, they would be given the chance to defend themselves,” he told reporters outside the Kamunting detention camp near here on Thursday.

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