Kuala Lumpur: Malaysia, in a rare out-of-court settlement, agreed today to pay an opposition lawmaker and five others USD 63,000 after they were detained under a tough security law two years ago.
The six members of the Socialist Party of Malaysia were arrested in 2011 and imprisoned for almost a month under the Emergency Ordinance which allowed detention without trial, before a mass rally for electoral reforms.
Choo Chon Kai, one of those detained, said the government agreed to pay damages totalling USD 63,000 in return for the dropping of a civil lawsuit filed last year for wrongful arrest and detention.
Prime Minister Najib Razak`s government scrapped the Emergency Ordinance and other tough security laws in December 2011 following criticism that they were abused to silence dissent.
But amid a recent surge in violent crime, the government has approved amendments to a 1959 crime prevention law that will once again allow detention without trial.
Najib has said the amendments will help crack down on crime and will not be used against government critics.
But the opposition and activists say they mark a return to the country`s authoritarian past.
Choo said their case demonstrated the "high risk of (security laws) being abused by the authorities".
"Ours is a strong case for us to argue against detention without trial," he told AFP. "It has been abused. Our case is one of the examples."
Government lawyers could not immediately be reached for comment on the legal settlement.
Malaysia is generally a peaceful country but crime is seen to be on the rise, including dozens of shootings in recent months.
Police have called for tougher laws to fight crime, blaming the violence on a turf war by gang members they say were freed when the Emergency Ordinance was abolished.