MALAYSIA: Terror-accused students remain in detention

The Geneva-based World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) has protested to the Malaysian government over the arrest in January of 50 people at the International Islamic University near the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur. They are believed to include at least two students from Nigeria and others from Ghana, Kenya, Syria and the Sudan. Although 38 of those arrested were later released, 12 remain in custody and were accused of having links with Al-Qaeda. Two of the Nigerian students are likely to be deported - another incident involving students and religious extremism that is causing the Nigerian authorities concern.

The previous incident involved former Nigerian student Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, who was arrested in the US after allegedly trying to blow up an American aircraft en route from Amsterdam last Christmas day.

In its letter of protest to the Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak, the OMCT says it is seriously concerned about the fate of the 12 individuals, in particular because of the 60-day detention for investigation allowed under the Internal Ssecurity Act.

"Previous detainees under the ISA have reported to have been interrogated and tortured during that initial detention time," the organisation says.

Malaysian security agencies are believed to have swooped on an audience attending a lecture at the Islamic University campus in Senangor. The packed audience was listening to a lecture by Syrian Islamic preacher and fiery orator Sheikh Aiman Al Dakkak, who advocated the need for Muslims to destroy the infidel Christian America and Europe.

According to a Nigerian postgraduate student in Malaysia, who was an eye witness to the event but did not want to be named, members of the audience were arrested and taken to an unknown destination.

"A few days later, after severe interrogation by the Malaysian intelligence service most of the students were freed. But the others remain under detention and were not released. They include Sheikh Aiman and two Nigerian postgraduate students, the informant said.

Malaysian authorities and the Nigerian embassy refused to release the names of the students detained during the raid. Authorities in the Nigerian capital Abuja said only that two students had been arrested for allegedly fraternising with Al-Qaeda elements at the Islamic University.

But according to impeccable diplomatic sources, the students are:

* Abdullahi Bolajoko Usman Ayolo from Kwara State in Central Nigeria. He has a masters degree from the International Islamic University and intends specialising as a PhD student in a branch of Islamic jurisprudence.
* Abdulsallam Lukman from Kwara State, who is a second year PhD student at the university, specialising in the Quran and Sunna.

Another Nigerian student at the university claimed the two postgraduates had been under surveillance by the Malaysian intelligence agency for months. Both are allegedly friends of Aiman, the Syrian preacher who is also a PhD student at the University Putra Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

Aiman is believed to have fled Syria 10 years ago when his hate campaign against the West and Israel became unacceptable to the Syrian government. He registered for a masters in Islamic jurisprudence at Putra Malaysia and continued with his anti-West preaching on campus.

Another Nigerian student in Malaysia said the preacher openly celebrates the destruction of the World Trade Centre on 9/11 and supports the views of Iran on Israel.

Diplomatic sources said the American and British embassies in Kuala Lumpur had complained to Malaysian authorities about the preacher's ant-West campaign, and wanted the people arrested during the lecture charged with aiding and abetting Al-Qaeda.

But the Nigerian government has stepped in, reportedly not wanting the Nigerian students charged in court.

An official at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja said that if a trial took place it would promote the image of Nigeria as a country that supports international terrorism. Nigeria was already paying dearly in terms of negative publicity following Abdulmutallab's alleged attempt to blow up an American aircraft.

The official added the Malaysian government might be inclined to accede to the Nigerian government's request not to charge the arrested students, so as not to jeopardise the oil and gas interests of some Malaysian firms in Nigeria.

If so, it is likely the arrested students will shortly be deported to Nigeria.