[JURIST] Twenty-six ethnic Indians have been charged with attempted murder in connection with anti-discrimination demonstrations [TIME report] in Malaysia [JURIST news archive] last month, a lawyer for the defendants said Tuesday. All 26 suspects pleaded not guilty to charges of attempted murder during a clash with police at a temple compound outside of Kuala Lumpur. The defendants' lawyer told AP that the Malaysian government was prosecuting the suspects because of their race, a claim that Malaysian Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail denied. Last week, Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi [official website; BBC profile] said Malaysian authorities may rely on the country's controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) [JURIST report; HRW backgrounder] to halt protests in Kuala Lumpur by thousands of the nation's ethnic Indians. The ISA is a preventive detention law that allows the Malaysian government to detain suspects for two years without trial and to renew the detention indefinitely.
The November 25 rally was sparked by complaints that the predominantly Malay Muslim government economically discriminates against ethnic Indians and other minorities. Three Hindu activists originally arrested before the protest and charged with sedition were subsequently released [BBC reports]. Earlier in November, Malaysian police cracked down [JURIST report] on demonstrators participating in an unauthorized election reform rally held by the electoral rights group Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections [advocacy website], firing tear gas and water cannons at protesters. BBC News has more.