(06-01) 08:03 PDT KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP)
The government announced Sunday it was releasing three Malaysian opposition activists imprisoned for two years without trial for allegedly plotting to topple Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad.
The first of the three, Saari Sungib, was freed Sunday from the Kamunting prison camp in northern Malaysia and handed over to his family, said his wife, Aliza Jaafar.
The two other detainees -- Tian Chua, vice president of the opposition National Justice Party, and independent filmmaker Hishamuddin Rais -- would likely be released Monday, she said.
"We are overjoyed beyond words," Aliza told The Associated Press.
The three were among six members of the National Justice Party arrested in April 2001, accused by police of planning violent demonstrations to oust Mahathir's government and seeking to buy weapons and explosives. The group denies the accusations.
They were held under the Internal Security Act, which allows detention orders to be renewed indefinitely without judicial review. The orders against two of the remaining detainees expire this month. The third was convicted of leaking state secrets.
Home Ministry Secretary-General Aseh Che Mat said authorities had decided not to extend the detention. His statement, carried by the national news agency Bernama, gave no explanation.
S. Arutchelvam, of the Malaysian human rights group Suaram, expressed hope the government would stop using the security act against the opposition. "The entire detention had been unjustified," he said.
In its annual report released last week, Amnesty International accused the government of using laws such as the security act to target opposition members with "politically motivated arrest, prosecution and imprisonment."