Global rights group Amnesty International urged Malaysia Friday to release or charge two Malaysian men detained under a new "deeply flawed" security law over their alleged involvement in terrorism.
Malaysian police confirmed in a statement they arrested two men, together with a woman, Thursday on suspicion of having masterminded the recruitment of Malaysians "for the purpose of terror activities".
They are believed to be the first to be held under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or SOSMA, which Prime Minister Najib Razak's government introduced last year to replace the much-criticised, colonial-era Internal Security Act (ISA).
But the new act has also come under criticism for giving authorities too much power to hold people on broad grounds for up to 28 days without charge. The ISA allowed for indefinite detention without charge and was used on some dissenters.
London-based Amnesty International said the suspects were being detained "arbitrarily under a deeply flawed law that is not in line with international human rights standards".
"This first arrest under SOSMA shows that the Malaysian authorities have just replaced one oppressive regime with another," the group's deputy Asia-Pacific director Isabelle Arradon said in a statement.
"The Malaysian authorities should not compromise human rights in the name of security. They should immediately revise or repeal the new security law."
Those detained reportedly include Yazid Sufaat, a suspected member of Al-Qaeda-linked group Jemaah Islamiyah, who was already held from 2001 to 2008 under the ISA.
Najib abolished that act and others deemed to repress dissent to woo voters who abandoned his Barisan Nasional coalition -- which has ruled Malaysia for 56 years -- in unprecedented numbers in the last election in 2008.
But activists and the opposition have dismissed his reforms as window-dressing. Najib is expected to face a tough battle against a resurgent opposition alliance in the next election, which must be held by June.