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BBC: Terror investigations strain Malaysian politics
By Simon Ingram

23/1/2002 3:51 am Wed

[Jangan lupa strategi Mahathir dalam menghadapi Anwar ialah dengan pengaiban besar-besaran melalui media yang mendahului perbicaraan. Sekarang giliran PAS pula selepas beberapa pemimpin parti KeADILan dan Hishamudin Rais ditahan.

Jika Mahathir betul-betul seorang yang jujur dan baik hati dia tidak akan menggunakan ISA untuk menahan seseorang berbulan-bulan kerana itu satu penganiayaan (oppression) yang dikutuk oleh Islam. Malah penahanan sebegini tidak sepatutnya ujud jika Malaysia memang adalah sebuah negara Islam kerana hakim yang sepatutnya menentukan - bukannya polis dan bukannya sangkalan. - Editor]


Tuesday, 22 January, 2002, 17:10 GMT

Terror investigations strain Malaysian politics

By the BBC's Simon Ingram

An investigation in Malaysia into links between local Muslim activists and the 11 September attacks in the United States, is sharpening tension between the ruling coalition of Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the main opposition party.

Speaking in a BBC interview, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Home Affairs, Abdullah Badawi, said "practically" all the 15 alleged militants arrested in recent weeks turned out to members of the opposition Parti Se-Islam Malaysia (PAS).

At least one of the detainees is suspected of having connections to three of the hijackers who took part in the attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

Mr Badawi denied charges that the government was exploiting the affair to its political advantage.

"We don't want to be very quick in drawing conclusions, but we are saying that the presence of these people among the PAS people can create a kind of PAS politics which may not be in the long-term interests of Malaysia," he said.

'No connection'

PAS leaders have hotly denied any connection between the party and al-Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden.

"At the moment there is not an iota of evidence - this is clearly a wild allegation by the [government]" PAS President Fadzil Noor told the BBC. "As far as we know there is no connection at all.

"If there is, it is based on the actions of individuals."

Whatever the evidence of PAS connections to militant Islam, it appears to be hurting the party politically.

A by-election on 19 January in the northern Malaysian state of Perlis - an area where PAS has won strong support in recent years - was won by the government's candidate with an enhanced majority.

In his interview, Abdullah Badawy said the interrogation of 15 men arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA) had revealed the existence of a network involving different groups and individuals around the region.

"We have been able to establish connections with training in Afghanistan and Pakistan," he said. "We are also aware that they have linkages with similar groups in Singapore, the southern Philippines and Indonesia."

Regional investigation

On Monday, the Philippine military announced the arrest of an Indonesian man, Fathur Rohman al-Ghazi, who they allege to be a leader of a group called Jemaah Islamiya.

The Singapore authorities - who have themselves arrested a number of men in connection with an alleged plot to attack US and other targets in the island state - say Jemaah Islamiya also operates in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Separately, police in Jakarta said Tuesday that they have summoned for questioning a Muslim cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, who has been linked to militant groups in Malaysia and Singapore.

Mr Badawy said it was not yet clear how far the militant network extended.

"We have to face the facts, whatever facts that may surface as a result of the investigation," he said. "We are co-operating with the authorities in Singapore and also with other governments, the United States particularly.

"No stone is left unturned."

The absence of firm information about the investigation in Malaysia has left some observers sceptical.

"It's all political," said one local commentator. "The claims about links to PAS are too convenient for the government."

The first round of arrests under the ISA in April 2001 led to the detention without trial for two years of five senior aides to the jailed former Deputy Prime Minister, Anwar Ibrahim.

A second sweep by police, also last year, brought in 16 people - including the son of PAS spiritual leader, Nik Abdul Aziz - whom the authorities claim to be members of the Malaysian Mujahedin Group (KMM).

Cynics say the government has yet to produce evidence that the KMM even exists.