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Cablegate: Brunei Releases Five Isa Detainees

VZCZCXRO4455
RR RUEHCHI RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHBD #0205 1980905
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 170905Z JUL 07
FM AMEMBASSY BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 3879
INFO RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS
RHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HI

UNCLAS BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 000205

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PHUM BX PHUM
SUBJECT: BRUNEI RELEASES FIVE ISA DETAINEES

REF: 06 BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN 379

1. The Government of Brunei (GOB) has announced release of
five detainees held without public trial on counterfeiting
charges since February 2004 under provisions of the Internal
Security Act (ISA). Detentions under the ISA are usually for
two-year renewable periods, but in this case the release date
was probably adjusted to coincide with national celebrations
of the Sultan's birthday on July 15. According to the
Ministry of Home Affairs, the release followed successful
"rehabilitation" of the detainees. All five swore an oath of
allegiance to the Sultan at a local mosque and pledged to
abide by Bruneian law.

2. The released detainees were among sixteen members of a
counterfeiting ring originally arrested under the ISA for "an
attempt to sabotage the economic stability of the country."
A total of BDOLS 783,500 (approx USDOLS 515,460) in
counterfeit notes was confiscated during the investigation.
At the time of their arrest in 2004, the ISA was invoked
partly because penalties for counterfeiting under
then-current law were deemed too lenient by the GOB given the
scale of the ring's alleged activities. (New counterfeiting
laws with stricter penalties have since been passed.)
Thirteen of the original sixteen detainees were Bruneian
citizens, one a permanent resident, one Malaysian, and one
Filipino.

3. Coming on top of previous releases, by our count this
latest action leaves only two of the original sixteen alleged
counterfeiters still incarcerated, one Bruneian citizen and
one non-Bruneian citizen. (Bruneian law does not obligate
the GOB to release any information about actions taken under
the ISA, not even to identify the detainees.) The names and
ages of the five individuals granted their freedom under this
latest release are: Sofri bin Dahali, 40; Haji Abdul Salam
bin Haji Dollah, 51; Bakar bin Haji Bali, 40; Haji Razali bin
Haji Kahan, 58; and, Juni bin Haji Garip, 42.

4 Comment: Embassy estimates that this latest release
leaves a total of eleven individuals still detained without
public trial under the ISA: the two remaining alleged
counterfeiters; Noordin bin Haji Ahmed Noor, age 64, a former
police officer arrested in March 2004 for allegedly selling
classified GOB documents to an unspecified foreign nation;
and eight individuals whom we believe were arrested in May
2005 for alleged narcotics trafficking. Assuming that
estimate is correct, this is the lowest number of individuals
detained by the GOB without public trial under the ISA since
at least 2003. The reduction in ISA detainees probably does
not, however, reflect any diminution of the GOB's willingness
to employ the ISA in those cases where it deems it necessary
to do so. End Summary.
SKODON

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