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Malaysia gives Indians a breather

Kuala Lumpur, Dec. 17 (PTI): Malaysia today dropped attempted murder charges against 31 ethnic Indians who took part in an anti-government protest against alleged marginalisation with Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi assuring the community that he would “not fail” them.

Attorney-general Gani Patail dropped all charges against five students and brought lesser charges against 26 others who were part of the November 25 protest by the Hindu Rights Action Force amid cheers from relatives and friends of the detainees.

The charges of causing mischief and illegal assembly remain against the 26, all of whom pleaded guilty at the Klang sessions court today and were freed on bail. They will go on trial on December 27.

“I could be very strict but I don’t think this is the time to be that strict,” Patail said.

He added that freeing the students would be the “best course of action” in public and national interest.

“I will not fail you,” Abdullah told a group of ethnic Indians last evening at his constituency of Kepala Batas and stressed the need to maintain harmony between all races.

The 31 protesters were slapped with the charge of attempted murder, punishable by 20 years in jail, for allegedly injuring a policeman during the rally outside the Batu caves, which houses a temple of Lord Murugan.

Five Hindu rights force leaders are still under detention under the controversial internal security act that allows authorities to hold them indefinitely without trial.

“The government will help in whatever way it can but to do my job, the country needs to be peaceful and safe. That is why I had to take action recently,” Abdullah said about the arrests.

He also said he respected all races and would not treat Indians as his “enemy”.

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