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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Charged over Hindu Rally in Malaysia - 28 Nov 2007 BBC

Scores charged over Hindu rally 28 Nov 2007

Water cannons and tear gas were deployed by police
At least 80 ethnic Indians have been charged with illegal assembly in Malaysia, after a weekend of protests in the capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Activists appeared in several courts around the country to deny the charges, and many were freed on bail.

Thousands of Hindu activists took to the streets to protest at what they regard as decades of discrimination by the mainly Malay-Muslim government.

One of the rally's organisers vowed to continue fighting for Indian rights.

"People won't be deterred. They want to put their foot down," said P Uthayakumar.

"To me it is racially motivated. The public will have more hatred for the government."

Thiruchelven Rajoo, a 30-year-old electrician who was charged with illegal assembly, told the Associated Press he did not regret taking part in the rally.

"I am not worried because I am doing it for my rights. It is unfair to all Indians in Malaysia ... they treat us like dogs."

Compensation claim

Meanwhile, government lawyers are seeking to overturn a decision by the courts to free three of the protest's organisers, who were held on charges of sedition, state news agency Bernama reports.

Judges freed the men after prosecutors failed to provide a translation of their allegedly seditious comments, which had been made in Tamil.

The legal moves against the activists came the day after Malaysia's Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi raised the possibility of using strict security laws to clamp down on protesters.

Mr Abdullah said the Internal Security Act, which allows indefinite detention without trial, could be used.

The stated aim of Sunday's rally was to call on the British government to pay compensation to the descendants of ethnic Indians taken to Malaysia as indentured labourers in the 19th Century.

But the real goal of the demonstrators was to highlight perceived discrimination against ethnic Indians.

Activists say policies granting jobs and economic advantages to the ethnic Malay Muslim majority leave many Hindus in poverty.

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