Detention of protestors condemned

KUALA LUMPUR, Oct 19 (AFP) - Two Malaysian groups Monday protested the continued detention of 133 people during an anti-government demonstration in the capital over the weekend.

Human rights group Aliran in a statement condemned the continued detention of the 133, saying it was an "unprovoked police assault on a peaceful march and non-violent protest" on Saturday.

They were among some 10,000 supporters of ousted deputy premier Anwar Ibrahim who demonstrated in a downtown area for five hours Saturday calling on Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad to step down.

"In this assault, numerous protestors -- men and women -- were beaten with truncheons, caned with rattans, kicked, injured and bloodied," it alleged.

"It makes a mockery of the government's claim that it still practises democracy in this country."

Aliran alleged police had become "increasingly repressive, intolerant of democratic forms of dissent and contemptuos of the rule of law.

"By now, it is clear that Malaysians who are committed to a just and democratic society are no longer cowed by authorities' stubborn refusal to permit peaceful gatherings and non-violent forms of dissent," it said.

Syed Husin Ali, president of the Malaysian People's Party, urged police to respect the people's right to hold peaceful gatherings.

"This right is enshrined in the constitution but very often violated by the police," he said in a separate statement.

"We consider the police brutality to be provocative acts against those peaceful gatherings in order to incite certain irresponsible groups to act wildly," he added.

Both Syed Husin and Aliran demanded the release of the 133 detainees.

Aliran also called for an independent probe into the alleged police assault and the abolishment of the Internal Security Act, which provides for detention without trial.

Meanwhile, family members and friends of the 133 detainees have lodged a report Monday they were not allowed access and were intimidated by police wielding rattan sticks.

Access leading to a police station in the city where 68 of them were kept has been sealed off and police chased away some 50 people waiting outside.

"We have lodged a report against the abuse of police power. We regret the unfair treatment and denial of rights to family members," activist Lee Siew Hwa told AFP.

Lee said family members had difficulty passing food and clothing to the detainees as well as obtaining information about their health.

About 60 of them were believed to have been sent to the general hospital for a medical examination following alleged police assault, she added.