Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Malaysia frees four Jemaah Islamiyah militants with links to Al Qaida

2007-12-31 Southeast Asia
Malaysia frees four alleged militants

The Malaysian government has released four alleged members of the militant group Jemaah Islamiyah after holding them for nearly five years, a rights group said on Saturday. "The government freed the four alleged JI members last week," Yap Swee Seng, the executive director of the campaign group Voice of the Malaysian People, said.

The men were arrested in December 2002 under the criticised Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows indefinite detention without trial, after the government launched a crackdown on JI, the rights group said. The militant group, previously thought to have links to Al-Qaida, has been blamed for deadly attacks that have killed hundreds of people in south-east Asia. Yap said that the men were released from Kamunting detention camp in northern Perak state on December 19, but that their movements have been curtailed. "They still have to report to police and remain indoors at night," he said.

Security officials could not be reached for comment. But intelligence officials have previously said that detention under the ISA was extended only if there was evidence that a militant remained a security threat.

The released men were Bakkery Mahhamud, Mohamad Zamri Sukirman, Sabri Jaafar and Zamzuri Sukirman, said GMI, another rights group, adding they had been detained between December 2002 and January 2003.

GMI wants the ISA abolished and said a persistent public campaign had led to their release. But it criticised the selective release of people held under the act. "GMI calls on the Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to immediately release all those who have been detained in Kamunting or charge them in court," it said.

The government used the ISA in December to arrest five Hindu rights activists after they organised street protests to demand equal opportunities in Muslim-majority Malaysia. They are still being held by the authorities and critics charge that the ISA contravenes human rights. Malaysia has detained at least 85 people under the ISA, including alleged JI militants, according to the Voice of the Malaysian People. JI has been blamed for the 2002 bombings on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, which killed 202 people, mainly foreign tourists.

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