Malaysia Frees 5 Untried Terror Suspects

By: Julia Zappei - AP Writer
By: Julia Zappei - AP Writer

Malaysia on Tuesday freed five terror suspects held for up to 7½ years without trial under a strict security law that has been severely criticized by civil rights groups.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein said the Malaysian men were released because they no longer presented a threat.

They were arrested under the Internal Security Act for alleged involvement in Jemaah Islamiyah, an al-Qaida-linked regional militant network. Two of them have spent more than seven years in detention while the other three were held for more than two years.

Hishammuddin's aide, who declined to be named citing protocol, said release orders were sent to the five men, which effectively freed them immediately.

"Once they received the notice, they can just leave the detention camp," he said. No further details were immediately available.

Local detainees usually face conditions after their release, such as travel restrictions.

Norlaila Othman, wife of Mat Sah Mohamad Satray, who was detained for seven years and three months for alleged involvement in the terror network, confirmed her husband was out of jail.

"I've been fighting for his release, his freedom for so long. ... Of course I'm overwhelmed," she told The Associated Press. The couple have a 16-year-old son.

Last month, tens of thousands of people took part in a protest against the Internal Security Act, saying the law is outdated and has been abused to jail political dissidents. Police crushed the protest organized by activists and opposition parties.

The government has refused to abolish the law, but has said it is reviewing it. Since Prime Minister Najib Razak took office in April, the government has released 26 people, including five ethnic Indian political activists who were jailed for allegedly being a threat to national security.

Nine people remain detained under the act, mainly for alleged links to militants and document forgery. Four of them are Malaysians, while the others are from Bangladesh, Indonesia, Pakistan, Singapore and Thailand.

Among them is Mas Selamat Kastari, Jemaah Islamiyah's alleged former Singapore commander, and several others who are believed to have had contact with him.

Malaysia arrested the men earlier this year, more than a year after Mas Selamat, a Singaporean citizen of Indonesian origin, escaped from prison in Singapore.


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