Lawyers of a Tamil body have told a court that the Malaysian police were 'brutal' while dispersing a protest rally by Tamils in Kuala Lumpur last month to voice their grievances.
Media reports on Wednesday said that lawyers defending the 26 detainees clashed with their counterparts on the prosecution side.
The Star newspaper termed as 'dramatic' the start of the trial of those detained, said to be Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) supporters.
Hindraf's rally that drew an estimated 10,000 participants was peaceful according to media reports. But it was declared illegal and the police dispersed it using water cannons.
The trial began in a packed and heavily guarded Sessions Court at Shah Alam. Judge Azimah Omar told the defence lawyers not to be emotional, the newspaper said.
Malaysia's Attorney-General Abdul Ghani Patail himself led the prosecution team while 17 lawyers appeared for the defence.
However, three volunteer lawyers from the Bar Council for the defence discharged themselves after one of them, Rajpal Singh, disagreed with Hindraf lawyer P Uthayakumar's "racial slant".
The suspects, detained by police in Batu Caves since Nov 25, are being tried for various charges including taking part in an illegal assembly and causing damage to public property.
The court proceedings were "tense" and "tinged with racial overtones," said the newspaper.
The Tamil prisoners have been charged with using criminal force on a policeman with intent to cause death.
The attorney general chided the defence lawyers, saying they were "causing more problems for their clients by bringing up trivial issues", the New Straits Times reported.
Defence lead counsel M Manoharan told the Sessions Court that Gani's presence was to intimidate judge, Ms Azimah Omar.
Manoharan then made an issue of Abdul Gani's submission in English, arguing that as a government servant Abdul Gani should have used Bahasa Malaysia, the official language.
Azimah waved away the objections, the newspaper said.
The protestors say that Malaysian authorities discriminate against the ethnic Indian community, some eight per cent strong in the country. The authorities were also accused of ethnic cleaning - a charge Malaysian leaders have rejected.