Sunday, December 16, 2007

Thousands gather to demand release of 5 Hindraf leaders in Malaysia

Thousands gather to demand release of 5 Hindraf leaders in Malaysia
16 Dec 2007, 1238 hrs IST,AFP

KUALA LUMPUR: Thousands of activists gathered near a detention camp
where Malaysia is holding five leaders of a ethnic Indian group and
freed pigeons to demand their freedom, a rights group said on Sunday.

The five leaders were detained under the country's controversial
Internal Security Act (ISA) that allows for detention without trial
last Thursday.

At least 2,000 activists held prayers in a nearby temple for their
early release after police sealed the roads leading to Kemunting camp
in the northern Perak state, rights campaigner RS Thanenthiran said.

"These people are not terrorists. The government is escaping from the
real issue that Indians are marginalised in Malaysia. We demand the
immediate release of the detainees," he said, adding that the protest
also aimed to rally support for families of the detainees.

"We released 36 pigeons -- five for the ISA detainees and 31 for those
in prison awaiting Monday's bail application -- as a symbol of freedom
for all of them," he said, noting there were no arrests despite a
heavy security presence.

The 31 Indians were arrested after last month's protest outside the
famous Batu Caves temple, north of the capital Kuala Lumpur. They face
an attempted murder charge against a policeman who allegedly suffered
head injuries.

Rights group Hindraf, whom Thanenthiran represents, is pushing for an
end to discrimination of minority ethnic Indians in multi-racial
Malaysia, which is led by the majority Muslim-Malay government.

The organistation enraged the government last month by mustering at
least 8,000 people to the streets of Kuala Lumpur to highlight issues
including a lack of economic opportunities and the destruction of
Hindu temples.

Police used tear gas, water cannon and baton charges to break up the protests.

Muslim Malays make up 60 percent of the population and control the government.

Malaysia is also home to ethnic Chinese, who make up 26 per cent of
the population and dominate business.

Ethnic Indians, who make up 8.0 per cent, complain they run a distant
third in terms of wealth, opportunities and education.

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