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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 10:18 GMT 11:18 UK
Malaysian opposition fear crackdown
Mohamad Mahathir
Dr Mahathir: Promised co-operation with the US
By BBC's Simon Ingram in Bangkok

Human rights activists in Malaysia have accused the government of exploiting the aftermath of the attacks on the United States to pursue a crackdown on opposition groups.

The accusation came after the son of a senior Islamic opposition leader, was ordered detained without trial for two years under the Internal Security Act (ISA), accused of being a member of an extremist Islamic group.

Nik Adli Nik Abdul Aziz was first arrested in August, along with 16 others, accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Mahathir Mohamad.

PAS supporters
Media have tried to link PAS supporters to Bin Laden
Critics complain that by using the ISA, the Malaysian government avoids having to produce any evidence in court

The detention order comes amid claims - subsequently denied - that Washington had included Malaysia in a list of countries that harboured terrorists.

A spokeswoman for the human rights group, Suaram, said the two-year detention order imposed on Mr Adli was troubling.

Embarrassing reports

Suaram's view is that the US-led war on international terrorism has given a free hand to countries like Malaysia to take an even tougher line against home-grown Islamist opposition groups.

Muslim women shopping
Many of Malaysia's Muslims are opposed to US retaliation against Afghanistan
It is certainly true that initially, Dr Mahathir signalled Malaysia's firm support for the US drive to hunt down the perpetrators of the devastating attacks in New York and Washington. The local pro-government media tried to link the Islamist opposition party PAS to Osama Bin Laden.

But the government has also been embarrassed by reports that at least one of the men suspected of carrying out the attacks had visited Malaysia last year, and that local banks had been used to channel funds belonging to Osama Bin Laden.

In response, ministers have pledged full co-operation with the US in investigating the matter.

But the official stance is complicated by public opinion especially among Malaysian Muslims, many of whom are opposed to possible American retaliation in Afghanistan or elsewhere.

Local newspapers today quote Dr Mahathir as calling for a world conference to examine the causes behind terrorism and ways of dealing with it.

See also:

24 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysia denies harbouring terrorists
14 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asia's Muslims uncertain after US attack
04 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
Malaysia's fearsome security law
19 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
Asian casualties mount in New York
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