Malaysian police 'kidnapping Indonesia exiles'

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The Independent Online
MALAYSIAN police snatch squads are abducting exiled opponents of the Indonesian government as part of a secret deal between the two countries, according to human-rights organisations in Kuala Lumpur.

More than 50 people are being held without access to families, doctors or lawyers, according to the groups, many of them legal residents of Malaysia who have been abducted in daylight by plain clothes security personnel. Despite repeated requests, the Malaysian authorities refuse to allow access to the detainees by officials of the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR). There are growing fears that they will be sent back to Indonesia, where they risk imprisonment and torture for their political activities.

In the past two weeks alone, at least nine people are reported to have been arrested, and are being held incommunicado in unknown locations. According to Suaram, a Malaysian rights group, individuals have been kidnapped from their homes, their shops, and while standing at a bus stop in Kuala Lumpur. One man, Ishak Bin Mohammad Daud, was stopped in his car in which he was travelling with two companions. They were allowed to go, but he has not been seen since. Yesterday, lawyers acting on his behalf were told by Malaysian police that they knew nothing of his whereabouts.

The abductees are all from Aceh, the northernmost province of Sumatra, where Islamic guerrillas have been fighting a sporadic war of independence since the 1950s. After a wave of suppression in the early 1990s, when at least 2000 Acehnese were killed or abducted by the Indonesian army, members of a group calling itself the Aceh/Sumatra National Liberation Front (ASNLF) fled to Malaysia. Some lived without proper documents, but others obtained residence permits from the Malaysian government.

Illegal immigrants caught by police, including several hundred from Aceh, were held in detention camps. Recently their numbers have been increased by large numbers of new "illegals" who have sailed to Malaysia to escape the economic crisis in Indonesia. Human-rights groups believe the Malaysian government is using the mass deportation of "illegals" as an excuse too deport legitimate asylum-seekers at the behest of Indonesia. Several ASNLF members have gone into hiding, and their houses are being watched by police. "Just yesterday the home of one of our members was raided," an ASNLF spokesman said. "He wasn't there, but his wife and children were very afraid."

Syed Husin Ali, of the opposition Malaysian People's Party, said: "It is just beginning. They're taking the opportunity of the economic crisis to expel the new illegals and at the same time to round up the Acehnese. We believe they have been asked to do this by the Indonesian government."