Fifteen ethnic Indians launched a hunger strike in Malaysia on Sunday to demand the abolition of a tough security law which the government says is needed to combat terrorism, organisers said.
"The five-day hunger strike is to protest against the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) and to demand all detainees are freed," S. Jayathas, coordinator of the rights group Hindraf which organised the strike, told AFP.
"The hunger strike is also to demand the government end all injustices in Malaysia and stop discriminating against minority Indians."
The ISA, a relic of the British colonial era when it was used to fight a communist insurgency, allows for renewable two-year periods of detention without trial.
Malaysia's government says it is a vital tool to fight terrorism, but rights groups say the law has been improperly used to silence government critics, and that detainees are mentally and physically tortured.
Rights groups say 70 people, mainly alleged Islamic militants, are being held under the ISA.
The protesters are staging their hunger strike at a small temple north of Kuala Lumpur. Some of those taking part are relatives of five ethnic Indian leaders of Hindraf, who are being held under the ISA.
The five, one of whom is a state lawmaker, were arrested after enraging the government last November by mounting a mass rally alleging discrimination against Malaysia's minority ethnic Indians.
Ethnic Indians make up less than eight percent of the 27-million-strong population of the mainly Muslim Malay country.
Jayathas said the protesters would only consume water during the strike.