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The arrest and detention of seven reformasi activists under the Internal Security Act (ISA) last week was political in nature and allegations of them being involved in militant means to topple the government are a "pack of lies", a lawyer told the Kuala Lumpur High Court today.

Counsel Zainur Zakaria, who said this, added the detentions of the seven were unjustified and unlawful. He was submitting for a habeas corpus application by five of the detainees for their immediate release from police custody.

The five filed the application last Thursday following their arrests under the ISA which allows for detention without trial for a minimum of two years following an initial 60-day investigative period.

Similar applications on behalf of two others, N Gobalakrishnan and Abdul Ghani Haroon, are expected to be made soon.

The seven detained are Keadilan vice-president Tian Chua, party Youth leaders Mohd Ezam Mohd Nor, Gobalakrishnan, Abdul Ghani Haroon and Saari Sungib, Free Anwar Campaign ( webmaster Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin and social activist-cum malaysiakini columnist Hishamuddin Rais.

They were arrested last week for allegedly planning violent street demonstrations and other militant means to topple the government.

Bad faith

Zainur told justice Augustine Paul that the Inspector General of Police (IGP) Norian Mai had alleged in a press statement on April 11 that the seven were part of a secret cell within the reformasi movement and were planning to use violence and street protests to overthrow the government.

"In his statement Norian also said the reformasi movement started in September 1998 and in that year the police had detained 28 reformasi activists to deter them from proceeding with their militant trend," said Zainur.

"However none of them were charged in court and no evidence to show their involvement in militant movements was produced," he added.

Similarly, the seven who were arrested recently were also linked to the same militant trend and again without any evidence, he said.

"This shows that the recent detention was politically motivated and done in bad faith. It was improperly made for collateral or ulterior purposes," said Zainur.

"The allegations levelled against them are baseless and a pack of lies," he added.

Unclear copy

At this juncture Paul asked if Norian's statement referred specifically to the activities purportedly carried out by the seven or was it addressing the entire reformasi movement in general.

He said that Norian in his affidavit had said the allegations of militant actions did not specifically refer to those detained.

Zainur said the statement by Norian was issued to the press to explain the reasons for the detention of the seven.

"The statement refers to these seven as being involved in reformasi activities and that they were detained for being a threat to national security," said Zainur.

"If, as the IGP says, the seven were not referred to in the press statement as being part of the militant reformasi movement, why then were they arrested?" he asked.

Paul, who complained that his copy of the IGP's press statement was not clear, asked Zainur to continue his submission on the matter tomorrow. Paul said he would ask his secretary to type a clear copy of the press statement.

Paul also asked if the other two defence counsels wanted to proceed with their submissions but was told that their submissions would follow Zainur's.

The prosecution is led by senior deputy public prosecutor Abdul Gani Patail.

Children's plea

In a related matter, Raja Petra's wife Marina Abdullah made a plea to the wives of the prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad and deputy prime minister and Home Affairs minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi to appeal to their husbands to allow family members to visit the detainees.

"We also appeal to the Women's and Family Development minister Shahrizat Jalil to convey our request to the Home Affairs minister and the IGP," said Marina.

Mohd Ezam's three children have also written a letter to Abdullah pleading for their father's release.

"We want to see our father. He is a good man. We hope you will release our father and Anwar," wrote eight-year-old Tihani Batrisyia, Muhammad Hasif, 4, and Muhammad Haaris, 3.