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Tuesday, 12 November, 2002, 05:56 GMT
Malaysia to tighten security laws
A pro-Taliban protester makes his voice heard last autumn
Malaysia has arrested dozens of suspected militants

Malaysia is to strengthen its already hardline security laws which allow for indefinite detention without charge or trial.

The Prime Minister, Dr Mahathir Mohamad, told the BBC that Malaysia's courts would be stopped from challenging the police and government over arrests ordered under the controversial Internal Security Act.

Dr Mahathir Mohamad
Mahathir says the security law has saved Malaysia
Dr Mahathir Mohamad says decisions to hold suspects under Malaysia's tough Internal Security Act should not be questioned in a court of law.

He has accused some judges of opposing the act and of undermining politicians.

The law now looks set to be changed to prevent challenges through the courts, though the government says some checks and balances will remain.

Long detention

The Internal Security Act already allows for suspects to be detained for up to two years without charge or trial.

Detentions can be extended indefinitely. In the last year, the act has been used against more than 70 people suspected of belonging to violent, Islamic militant groups, including that thought to be behind the Bali bombing, Jemaah Islamiyah.

On Friday, the high court ordered the release of one of those suspects, saying that the police had produced no evidence against him.

The man was released the next day but immediately re-arrested.

Another high court ruling that may have prompted this move to end its power was made in September.

'Essential'

Then the court decided that the police had acted wrongly in arresting five opposition activists last year.

However, it upheld a subsequent order from the deputy prime minister that the five be kept in detention.

Opposition and human rights groups have called for the Internal Security Act to be scrapped. They say it has been used to silence legitimate, political dissent.

But Dr Mahathir says it is essential to prevent acts of terror.

He credits it with having saved Malaysia. The country has certainly so far avoided the kind of violence that has dogged its neighbours Indonesia and the Philippines.

See also:

08 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
18 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
16 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
24 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
04 Jul 01 | Asia-Pacific
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