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Malaysia holds 5 ethnic Indian protesters under indefinite detention law

[JURIST] Five prominent members of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) [Wikipedia backgrounder] were arrested by Malaysian authorities Thursday and will be detained for at least two years under Malaysia's controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) [HRW backgrounder], Malaysian Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharom told the Associated Press. The five activists were apparently involved in orchestrating a November street demonstration [TIME report] in Kuala Lumpur by thousands of the nation's ethnic Indians. The rally was sparked by complaints that the predominantly Malay Muslim government economically discriminates against ethnic Indians and other minorities. Thursday's arrests were the first time since 2001 that Malaysia has invoked the ISA against government critics.

Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi [official website; BBC profile] said in November that authorities might rely on the ISA to halt protests [JURIST report]. 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. Three Hindu activists originally arrested before the protest and charged with sedition were subsequently released [BBC reports]. Earlier this month, 26 ethnic Indians were charged with attempted murder [JURIST report] in connection with the Kuala Lumpur protest. AP has more.

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