Led by a pressure group seeking the abolition of detention without trial under the feared Internal Security Act (ISA), about 20 protesters handed an 11-page memorandum listing details of alleged abuse to a commission on police reform on Thursday.

It was the latest in a series of moves by several rights groups to highlight claims by 31 alleged Islamist fighters that they had been beaten, stripped naked and sexually humiliated while in
detention.

The chairman of the Abolish ISA Movement, Syed Ibrahim, told reporters before handing over the memo that he believed the alleged abuse was "as bad" as that in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

Syed said he was "disappointed" that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi had dismissed the complaints of the detainees as untrue without holding an investigation.

Prime Minister Badawi is said to
have dismissed the complaints

The movement had forwarded the statement by the detainees to the police and the government-backed National Human Rights commission (SUHAKAM) on 19 January but had not received any reply, the group said in a statement.

It called for the ISA to be abolished, saying "this is the only way to convince the world that Malaysia does not condone torture of detainees as happened in Iraq by the US military."

'Tip of the iceberg'

The memo presented to the police commission detailed allegations of abuse of detainees stretching back to the 1970s.

It said the cases were believed to be only the "tip of the iceberg" as many others could have gone unreported for fear of reprisals.

The Malaysian government roundly condemned the abuse of the Iraqi prisoners, and has now been accused of hypocrisy and failing to act on the reported torture of its own detainees.

"The only difference with the torture as practiced by the American military personnel in Abu Ghraib prison was that they were foolish enough to take pictures of their exploits," the prominent rights group Suaram (Voice of the Malaysian People) said in a statement.

Malaysia has detained more than 80 alleged Islamist fighters under the ISA, a number of them allegedly members of the Jemaah Islamiya (JI) group blamed for a series of deadly attacks in the region, including the Bali blasts that claimed 202 lives in October 2002.