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Monday, Sept 21
Malaysian group denounces 'gross human rights abuses'

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 21 (AFP) - A Malaysian human rights group denounced Monday the detention of several people without trial and ``baseless police brutality'' in dispersing supporters of jailed former deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), or Voice of the Malaysian People, said the police violence and detentions under the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) amounted to ``gross human rights violations.''

``The ISA in itself is a threat to humans rights, the rule of law and democracy,'' a statement said, noting police powers were concentrated in the hands of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad as home minister.

``Not only are detainees deprived of their rights to a fair trial, the ISA also gives one man the power to decide the fate of dissenters. As a result, citizens with genuine concerns dare not voice their opinions and outspoken critics of the government are locked up without due procees,'' it added.

Suaram noted that at least six people had been detained since Anwar's arrest on Sunday only hours after the former deputy premier addressed an anti-Mahathir rally attended by tens of thousands of supporters.

Several dozen Anwar supporters were arrested after clashes with police outside a courthouse Monday.

``The tense situation in the capital is further inflamed by the violent actions of police,'' Suaram said, noting that innocent people were attacked with water cannons and had teargas fired at them.

``Some of the people were dragged by police and beaten up,'' the statement said, adding some witnesses claimed people had been shot.

``Mahathir should heed the people's call for justice and stop ordering further detentions under the ISA. If laws have been broken, the perpetrators should be charged and tried in a court of law, not detained arbitrarily and silenced.

``Further, the prime minister should ensure that police brutality is curbed immediately,'' the statement said.