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Opposition lawmaker released after week of detention

 
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September 20, 2008

Malaysia Internal Security Act:
Opposition lawmaker released after week of detention

An opposition politician held for a week in solitary confinement under controversial security laws spoke of her relief as she was freed on Friday, reported AFP.

Teresa Kok, of the Democratic Action Party (DAP), was detained along with prolific blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin under the Internal Security Act (ISA).

"I am happy I was freed. I am fine," she told reporters as she left a local police station.
"I do not know why I was freed today and I do not know why I was detained in the first place."

Her arrest drew public outrage and the Malaysian minister responsible for legal affairs resigned Monday over a series of arrests under the security law.

The ISA, which human rights groups have pushed to have abolished, allows for renewable two-year periods of detention without trial and is normally used against terror suspects.

Kok criticised the police for holding her in what she said was solitary confinement under the ISA without first investigating allegations that she incited religious tensions.

"After being detained for seven days under the guise of so-called investigations, the police failed to produce any evidence of me being involved in the activities of causing racial and religious tensions," she said in a statement.

Police said they arrested Kok last Friday because she was involved in a petition to silence the call to prayer in mosques in non-Muslim areas. Kok has denied making such
complaints.

"It is nonsensical for the police to detain me under the ISA merely based on the unsubstantiated article written by an irresponsible columnist... How can they (the police) regard the article as the gospel truth?" she said.

Yap Swee Seng, director of rights group Voice of the Malaysian People (Suaram), welcomed Kok's release but called for those responsible for her arrest to be held accountable for abusing their power.

"We call for the immediate release of Raja Petra and all other ISA detainees. We demand the draconian security law to be abolished," he told AFP.

A journalist for a Chinese-language newspaper was arrested after reporting on racist comments made by a ruling party member but was quickly released after uproar including from within the government.

Raja Petra, founder of the controversial Malaysia Today website, was previously charged with sedition and defamation after linking Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife to a sensational murder.

Kok's release came after Washington Thursday expressed "grave concern" over Malaysia's use of the ISA as a possible way to stifle dissent.

"The United States firmly believes that national security laws, such as the ISA, must not be used to curtail or inhibit the exercise of universal democratic liberties or the peaceful expression of political views," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

"The detention of opposition leaders under the ISA would be viewed by the United States and the international community as a fundamental infringement of democratic rights and values," he added.

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