Malaysia frees four suspected militants

(Reuters) – Malaysia has freed four suspected Islamic militants held without trial under a tough security law for five years, a rights group said on Friday.

Malaysia can detain people for consecutive two-year terms without trial under internal security laws used mostly against suspected members of militant groups such as Jemaah Islamiah (JI), which is fighting for an Islamic state in Southeast Asia.

This month, five ethnic Indian activists from a group that had staged a mass anti-government protest were detained under such laws.

The GMI group, which opposes detention without trial, said the four suspected militants had been freed on Dec. 19 from a detention centre in northwestern Malaysia.

It said three of the four men — Bakkery Mahhamud, Mohd Zamri Sukirman and Sabri Jaafar — had been detained in December 2002 and the fourth, Zamzuri Sukirman, in January 2003.

Internal Security Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.

The government has said in the past it would release detainees if they no longer posed a threat.

Malaysia has used the Internal Security Act, a legacy of its counter-insurgency campaign against the communists during British colonial times, to lock up dozens of suspected Islamic militants since Sept. 11, 2001.

The GMI rights group welcomed the release of the four, but said it was concerned by the residency curbs imposed on them and said many others were still in detention without trial.

"There are scores of detainees who are still being detained in the Kamunting Detention Camp, for the same allegations as those who were released," the group said in a statement.

Under Malaysia's Restricted Residence Act, the government can order people to remain within restricted zones around their homes and to report regularly to police.

The GMI called for all detainees at Kamunting to be either freed or charged and tried in court.