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Charges against 31 Indians dropped

world Updated: Dec 17, 2007 17:20 IST
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Malaysian prosecutors on Monday dropped attempted murder charges against 31 ethnic Indians who took part in a massive anti-government demonstration, a step that might assuage the feelings of the community protesting their alleged marginalisation in the Muslim-majority country.

Amid cheers and applause from relatives and friends of the detainees, Attorney-General Gani Patail also dropped all charges against five students who were part of the group of 31 activists of the non-governmental organisation Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), arrested last month.

The charges of causing mischief and illegal assembly remain against 26 of the protesters, all of whom pleaded guilty at the Klang Sessions Court this morning.

All 26 were freed on bail, and will go on trial on December 27.

The so-called 'Hindraf 31' were slapped with the attempted murder charge, punishable by 20 years in jail, for allegedly injuring a policeman during the rally outside Batu Caves, which houses the temple of Lord Murugan.

Hindraf had given the call for the rally, declared as "illegal" by the government, which saw over 20,000 ethnic Indians assemble in front of the iconic Petronas twin towers and outside the Batu Caves on November 25 to protest alleged marginalisation of the community in the multi-racial country.

"I could be very strict but I don't think this is the time to be that strict," Gani Patail said adding that freeing them would be the "best course of action" in the public and national interest.