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Malaysia likely to drop serious charges against 31 ethnic Indians

P. S. Suryanarayana

Badawi says those charged were misled by Hindraf

— Photo: AP

DEFIANT: Supporters of five Indian activists arrested under the Internal Security Act in Malaysia show their support outside a temple near the Kamunting Detention camp on Sunday.

SINGAPORE: Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi has hinted at the possibility of dropping serious charges against 31 ethnic Indians now facing trial in a riot case. And, Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) on Sunday avoided confrontation with the security forces, even as it demanded the release of five of its leaders now in detention without trial under Malaysia’s Internal Security Act (ISA).

However, it was not clear whether the group, which was planning to organise a street protest on Sunday, decided not to press ahead in a bid to reciprocate the Prime Minister’s gesture.

Appeal by accused

Mr. Badawi said all the 31 ethnic Indians, charged with an attempt to murder a police officer during a phase of Hindraf’s recent agitation, had now appealed that the charges be dropped.

Noting that the Attorney General had informed him about this, Mr. Badawi said: “This shows that many people had been misled by the group [Hindraf]. I pity them. So, I told the AG: ‘Please consider the representation [from the 31 ethnic Indians] and decide on the matter as quickly as possible.’”

Thanendiran, Hindraf’s new coordinator, said over the telephone from Kuala Lumpur that the group was originally planning to mobilise supporters in front of the detention centre, where its leaders were being held.

However, on noticing “a heavy presence of the Federal Reserve Unit [security] force” at that chosen venue, the group changed its plan. “No gathering” was, therefore, organised in front of the detention centre. The group’s supporters, numbering about 3,000, gathered at a temple about half-a-kilometre away from the detention centre, and held a prayer meeting, Mr. Thanendiran said. Authorities allowed the prayer meeting, and there was no clash between Hindraf supporters and security forces, he said.

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