Court frees Malaysian activists

Sedition charges dismissed a day after police fire tear gas on Indian protest.

    The court's decision came a day after police broke up a protest by ethnic indians in Kuala Lumpur [AFP]

    P Uthayakumar, his brother P Waytha Moorthy and V Ganapathy Rao, were arrested on Friday for allegedly uttering seditious remarks at a gathering in the central state of Selangor.

     

    The three are all founding members of the Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), the group which led Sunday's protest in Kuala Lumpur by thousands of ethnic Indians.

     

    After the court ordered their release the three men said they were undeterred and would continue to push for equal rights for Malaysia's third biggest ethnic group.

     

    Speaking to reporters, Uthayakumar said they had been "maliciously prosecuted".

     

    Sunday's protest drew thounsands of ethnic
    Indians into central Kuala Lumpur

    "They charged us for sedition when we spoke the truth," he said outside the court where some 1,000 supporters had gathered.

     

    After their release on Monday there was another tense standoff with police as supporters of the three held another impromptu rally.

     

    They later dispersed peacefully without a repeat of the ugly scenes in central Kuala Lumpur a day earlier.

     

    Sunday's protest had been called by Hindraf in support of a $4 trillion lawsuit that accuses Britain as Malaysia's former colonial ruler of being at the origin of the Indian community's economic problems.

     

    Petition

     

    The protesters had intended to deliver a petition to the British high commission in Kuala Lumpur.

     

    But the government ruled the protest illegal, saying it could inflame religious tensions, and deployed hundreds of riot police to block the demonstration.

     

    After protesters ignored police orders to disperse they used tear gas and fired water cannon laced with chemical irritants to break up the rally.

     

    Earlier this month police used similar methods to break up another protest in Kuala Lumpur calling for electoral reform.

     

    Hindraf says ethnic Indians, who form about eight per cent of Malaysia's 27 million people, have been marginalised despite the country's independence 50 years ago.

     

    They say government employment and education policies favoured ethnic Malays, a charge the government continues to deny.

     

    M Manoharan, the lawyer representing the three men and legal advisor for Hindraf, said they will pursue their demands with the British government.

     

    "We will be sending a 10-member Hindraf delegation to Buckingham Palace to personally hand over the petition to the Queen," he told Al Jazeera.

     

    "We just haven't decided when we will go."

     

    Government officials have denounced Sunday's demonstration as an attempt to create racial animosity and smear the government's image.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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