Malaysia holds three without trial ahead of law review

By JULIA ZAPPEI/Associated Press Writer

Malaysian authorities arrested three more people under the country's tough Internal Security Act ahead of a pledge by the new prime minister to review the law, which allows indefinite detention without trial, a human rights group and police said Friday.

News of the arrest of the three, including a suspected member of a Southeast Asian militant group, came as a surprise because Prime Minister Najib Razak had ordered the release of 13 others imprisoned under the act when he took power April 3.

Police took two of the suspects, Abdul Matin Anol Rahmat and Johar Hassan, from their homes in southern Johor state on April 1, said Nalini Elumalai, a representative of the Movement to Abolish the ISA. Another suspect, Agus Salim, an Indonesian living in Malaysia, was detained March 5, she said.

Authorities informed the family of Abdul Matin, 60, that he was suspected of being a member of the regional terror network Jemaah Islamiyah, said Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, the rights group's chairman. Activists did not know the reasons for the other men's detention.

Inspector General of Police Musa Hassan confirmed the three men were being held but declined to elaborate. Home Ministry officials who could comment were not immediately available.

In one of his first acts after taking office, Najib freed 13 security detainees, including two ethnic Indian activists who led an anti-government campaign and eight suspected Islamic militants. He also promised to conduct a comprehensive review of the security law.

Syed Ibrahim said the latest arrests cast doubt on whether the government will reform the decades-old law.

"Now it's more questionable… The ISA is an arbitrary law," he said.

Activists have long urged the government to abolish the act, calling it draconian and oppressive. At various times, opposition lawmakers, journalists and bloggers have been arrested under the law.

The government has defended the law as necessary to protect national security and ensure stability. Including the three latest arrests, activists estimate about 30 suspects are being held in a northern prison center without trial.