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Sunday, December 14, 2008

> British PM aware of Hindraf's plight

International journalist group Reporters Without Borders today revealed that British Prime Minister Gordon Brown had "taken note" of their request to press for the release of P. Uthayakumar, leader of the banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf) from Internal Security Act (ISA) detention.

In light of the first anniversary of Uthaya’s arrest with four others under the security law, the secretary-general of the journalist watchdog, Jean-Francois Julliard, had written to Brown on Nov 3 asking him to "intercede as quickly as possible and to press for Uthayakumar’s release".

"Staff in 10 Downing Street have told us that the prime minister had taken note of his request," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement today.

On Nov 15, 2007 - ten days before Hindraf’s massive rally in Kuala Lumpur, Uthayakumar sent a letter to the British premier, asking him to act on behalf of Malaysian Indians which "have been permanently colonialised by Islamic fundamentalists and Malay chauvinists of the government".

The group wants the Malaysian government to release Uthayakumar, who is also a human rights lawyer, as his detention under the ISA has "violated the principle of free expression".

"By allowing someone to be arrested and held without charge, this law enables the government to silence its opponents," the group said.

Forty-seven-year-old Uthayakumar has been held under the ISA since Dec 13 last year with four others for allegedly carrying out activities that threatened national security.

The others detained are M Manoharan, R Kenghadharan and V Ganabatirau and T Vasantha Kumar.

Still in detention after one year

The detained men, who are famously known as the Hindraf 5, have been battling the judiciary for their release.

On Dec 3, the hearing for their habeas corpus appeal had to be postponed as lead counsel Karpal Singh was ill. A new date has yet to be fixed.

Last Sept in Ipoh, judicial commissioner Ridwan Ibrahim, dismissed their habeas corpus application on the grounds that the detention of the five was according to legal provisions and the government had correctly and rightfully used its discretionary powers under the law.

He said the Advisory Board, which recommended the extension of their detention, also did not commit any wrongdoing as it did not have to go through a judicial inquest in order to make a decision.

The five have also filed habeas corpus applications in both the Ipoh and Kuala Lumpur High Court.

A writ of habeas corpus orders the authorities to produce detainees before a judge to determine whether the government has the right to continue holding them.

However, the Federal Court had already dismissed their appeal against the Kuala Lumpur High Court’s decision.

On May 14, a three-member Federal Court panel headed by the then Chief Judge of Malaya Alauddin Mohd Sheriff - now Court of Appeal president - ruled that the detention order by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, who was also then internal security minister, was lawfully executed - Malaysiakini.