KUALA LUMPUR: In Malaysia, a crackdown on a new suspected militant group has led to claims of human rights violations.
Rights group SUARAM said 11 people arrested for allegedly plotting terror attacks were not allowed to meet family members or legal counsel for more than a week after they were detained.
The 11 were arrested late last month. They are suspected of being part of a new militant group with links to Al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah.
One of the detainees, Abdul Hamid Suleiman, claimed he waited 16 days before he was able to see his mother and brother in prison.
Syukri Razab from SUARAM said: ''There are family members who weren't informed their relatives were arrested and only after eight days got to meet those arrested, even though SOSMA (the Security Offences Special Measures Act 2012) states police can delay access to legal counsel and families for up to 48 hours.”
Faridah Mohamad, the families’ lawyer, said: ''By doing this to the detainees it seems like they're giving the impression to the detainees that they're already guilty. We have not got full information about why they've arrested these people.''
The officer in charge of the investigations, Ayoub Khan, told Channel NewsAsia that authorities have evidence those arrested were plotting attacks – both in and outside Malaysia.
He said efforts had been made to arrange legal counsel for the detainees.
Their families would have had access to those arrested if they had simply put in a request.
He said all families were notified of the arrests immediately and would have been granted access to the detainees earlier, if they had put in requests.
Police had also contacted the national legal aid foundation to arrange legal counsel for the detainees — but never heard back from the lawyers.
But human rights groups want a closer review of exactly what happened.
Malaysia's national human rights commission said it will begin immediate investigations into the allegations, beginning with trying to gain access to those detained.
James Nayagam from National Human Rights Commission said: ''We are also concerned about the conditions they're detained in, we would like to meet up with them.
“We are monitoring the situation, so they're not alone and the families also are not alone. We will hold discussions with the police as well.”
Under Malaysian legislation, police can only detain suspects for 28 days – pending investigations – before they must be charged or released.