KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia -- An international human rights organization Thursday called on Malaysia to abolish its strict security law and said five ethnic Indian activists detained for holding a mass rally stand no chance of getting a fair hearing.
The activists from the Hindu Rights Action Force, or Hindraf, were detained in December under the Internal Security Act, which allows for indefinite detention without trial, shortly after they led some 20,000 Indians to protest alleged unfair treatment in ethnic Malay-dominated Malaysia.
A hearing into an appeal by defense lawyers to have the detention declared illegal finished on Monday. The verdict will be issued on Feb. 26.
Laurie Berg, an Australian lawyer speaking on behalf of the International Federation for Human Rights, said Thursday the hearing was not fair because the detainees were not present and could not challenge the accusations.
"We find that they have no chance of a fair hearing under this law ... The Internal Security Act is the very definition of arbitrary detention ... It's a violation of their fundamental human rights," she told reporters. "The use of this law is never justified."
Berg called on Malaysia to abolish "this outdated law" and free the five activists and about 70 others detained under the decades-old legislation.
Officials were not available for comment Thursday.
Attorney General Abdul Gani Patail has said the imprisonment of the five Indian activists ordered by Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi was lawful and necessary for security reasons.
Hindraf shot to prominence through its Nov. 25 rally to protest against alleged discrimination in employment, business and education opportunities and the destruction of some Hindu temples.
Ethnic Indians, most of them Hindus, make up only 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people. Ethnic Chinese, mainly Buddhist and Christians, account for a quarter, while Muslim Malays make up 60 percent.