Malaysia: Concerns for health of government critics detained without trial

'The six men - five leading activists from the opposition party Keadilan* and a media columnist - have already been made to suffer for their peaceful dissenting political activities. They should not have been imprisoned in the first place,' Amnesty International said.

The men have been boycotting prison food since September in protest at their treatment. They have lost weight and are suffering from various health problems such as blood in the urine, high blood pressure and migraines.

Amnesty International is calling for them to be given appropriate medical care and to be allowed access to independent doctors. The organisation is also urging the authorities to ensure that they are provided with food of the nutritional value needed to restore their health.

The authorities have claimed the six men - Tian Chua, Mohd Ezam Mohd Noor, Haji Saari Sungip, Hishamuddin Rais, Badrul Amin Baharom and Lokman Nor Adam - had threatened national security, by plotting to overthrow the government by militant means. However, these claims have never been substantiated. According to sworn affidavits by the prisoners, police interrogation focused mainly on the internal organisation of the opposition party, Keadilan (National Justice Party). Some of the six were subjected to aggressive and intrusive questioning about their private lives. There was no mention of any alleged plans to use violence.

After their arrest in April they were kept in solitary confinement in tiny windowless cells, denied access to lawyers for two months, subjected to intensive interrogation and only eventually allowed to see their families briefly in the presence of police officers. Amnesty International fears that during this time, the police subjected them to intense psychological pressure, amounting to torture .

In June 2001 the Minister of Home Affairs ordered their detention without trial for a further two years and they were transferred to Kamunting Detention Camp. They are now being held in pairs, segregated from all other detainees in the camp, a measure which is both discriminatory and punitive. All their meetings at the camp with relatives and lawyers have been closely monitored by the prison authorities.

'The ISA is a harsh piece of legislation which has been used by the authorities for decades to stifle legitimate dissent and to instill a climate of fear. Apart from the threat of torture during interrogation, the ISA violates a wide range of fundamental rights, including the right to a fair and public trial, and the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty,' Amnesty International said.

*Keadilan was formed following the arrest of former Deputy Prime Minister and current prisoner of conscience, Anwar Ibrahim. The party is led by his wife.

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