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Terror link charge on Indian activists

Police IG Musa Hassan accuses them of seeking support from terrorists, hurting country's reputation & inciting racial hatred.

india Updated: Dec 07, 2007 13:44 IST

Malaysia's police chief has accused ethnic Indian activists of having links with terrorist groups, charges they said on Friday could see them detained without trial under internal security laws.

Leaders of ethnic rights group Hindraf, which last month organised mass anti-discrimination protests that were broken up with tear gas and water cannons, already face being hit with sedition charges on Friday.

Police Inspector-General Musa Hassan accused them of seeking support from terrorists, smearing Malaysia's reputation, and inciting racial hatred -- a serious charge in the multicultural country dominated by Muslim Malays.

"Of late there have been indications that Hindraf is trying to seek support and help from terrorist groups," he said in a statement carried by the official Bernama news agency late on Thursday, without giving any details.

Musa dismissed as "false, baseless and malicious" the activists' claims that ethnic Indians, who make up eight percent of the population, are marginalised in terms of education, employment and wealth. "Their actions also have the potential of creating racial conflict in the country," he said.

One of Hindraf's leaders, P Uthayakumar, said the police chief's salvo raised the prospect of Malaysia's controversial Internal Security Act (ISA) -- which allows indefinite detention without trial -- being used against them. "They are trying to lay the foundation to arrest us under the ISA or to charge us for a criminal offence and deny us bail," Uthayakumar told AFP.

"At all costs, they want us locked up and behind bars when all we are doing is highlighting the marginalisation and permanent colonialisation and racism against Indians here."

Uthayakumar said he would write to Musa demanding evidence of the alleged terror links, or face a 10 million ringgit (three million dollar) defamation lawsuit.

Three Hindraf leaders including Uthayakumar will appear in court on Friday when the government will seek to overturn a decision that allowed them to walk free from sedition charges last month.

The charges relate to speeches made in November in which they criticised preferential treatment for Muslim Malays, who make up 60 per cent of the population.

"If I am detained today, our struggle will still go on. It may be at a slower pace but others will take up this cause and continue," Uthayakumar said.

Opposition leader Lim Kit Siang, from the Chinese-based Democratic Action Party, slammed the police allegations and called on the government to drop the attacks and instead listen to the concerns of ethnic Indians.

He filed for an emergency debate on the issue in parliament on Monday, saying that levelling the terror allegations "without any evidence whatsoever is a matter of grave national concern".

Earlier this week, 31 ethnic Indians were charged with attempted murder over the wounding of a police officer during a rally at a Hindu temple on the eve of the November 25 mass protests organised by Hindraf.