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Friday, 20 September, 2002, 22:09 GMT 23:09 UK
Militant crackdown saved Malaysia - PM
Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Mahathir says the West accepts the tough security laws

The arrest of dozens of Islamic militants following last year's terrorist attacks on America saved Malaysia from instability and chaos, the country's Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, has said.

In his annual budget speech, Dr Mahathir said that the militants had plotted a wave of bombings with the aim of overthrowing his government.

Around 60 alleged militants have been arrested in the past year under Malaysia's controversial Internal Security Act.

It allows for extended detention without charge or trial.

Pan-regional state

Dr Mahathir today defended its use - saying that some Muslims had become fanatical to the point where they were prepared to try to overthrow his regime.

Dr Mahathir did not give details - but the Singapore Government said on Thursday that it believed 20 people arrested there earlier this week had been planning to bomb targets in Singapore with the intention of blaming the attacks on Malaysia.

An Al-Maunah cult member waves to his family after the Kuala Lumpur court ruling
A court found 19 Muslim cult members guilty last December of armed revolt

It claimed their aim was to create a pan South East Asian Islamic state comprising Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore and parts of the Philippines.

Among those currently held under the Internal Security Act is Yazid Sufaat, a former Malaysian army captain.

He is accused of allowing his apartment to be used for a meeting of senior figures in the al-Qaeda network - including two of the 11 September hijackers.

Dr Mahathir said that the liberal West had accepted how important such laws were to defend Malaysia's stability.

However, some Western governments and Malaysian civil rights groups have criticised the use of the act, which was introduced during the era of British rule.

The government's opponents here say it has been used to silence legitimate opposition as well as to detain suspected militants.

See also:

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29 Apr 02 | Country profiles
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