Malaysia’s Hindraf detainees released on Deepavali eve

October 27th, 2008 - 11:44 am ICT by IANS  

HindrafKuala Lumpur, Oct 27 (IANS) Ten activists of the banned Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf), who were detained last week for gathering outside the Malaysian prime minister’s office, have been released on bail ahead of the Hindu festival of Deepavali. While this gesture was received with joy by the family members and supporters of those detained, there was no word about any government action on the five top (Hindraf) leaders - M. Manoharan, S. Kengadharan, P. Uthaya Kumar, Vasanth Kumar and Ganabatirau - whose freedom the 10 activists were seeking when they were arrested Thursday.

Their release was greeted with shouts of joy by about 100 family members and supporters of the outlawed movement who stationed themselves outside the district police station since early Sunday morning, The Star newspaper said.

The group was accompanied by a battery of lawyers, including ethnic Indian opposition lawmaker Gobind Singh Deo, Khalid Abdul Samad and Dzulfikli Ahmed, all from the opposition alliance Pakatan Rakyat.

Their release was signed at about noon by a magistrate’s court registrar.

Eleven people, including three women and a six-year-old girl, were detained Thursday when they gathered outside Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmed Badawi’s office to submit a memorandum seeking their leaders’ release.

Those held included K. Shanti, wife of Hindraf chairman P. Waythamoorthy, who is in self-exile in London, and their six-year-old daughter Vwaishhnnavi.

Shanti was released on police bail Thursday night and Vwaishhnnavi left with her, official news agency Bernama said.

A police spokesman said all of them were freed to enable them to celebrate Deepavali.

“Although the police, under the law, could extend their remand orders to facilitate investigations, yet on humanitarian ground they were released to enable them to celebrate the festive occasion,” the spokesman added.

Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar last week said in an interview that the action against the banned movement should not be construed as a clampdown on Indians or Hinduism.

The action taken so far, he said, was simply because of their association with militancy and their extremist views.

The organisation, banned earlier this month, has been in the eye of a political storm after the five leaders staged a protest rally in November last year to highlight perceived discrimination against the estimated 2.6 million ethnic Indians, a bulk of them Tamil Hindus.

Indians form eight percent of Malaysia’s 28 million population.

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