New Zealander arrested in Malaysia

LISA COX
Last updated 19:06 23/06/2014
Natalie Lowrey
ARRESTED: Environmental activist Natalie Lowrey, pictured at an earlier protest in Sydney, has been detained in Malaysia.

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A New Zealand environmental activist is being detained in a Malaysian prison after she was arrested at a protest outside a rare earths refinery in the country's east.

Anti-mining activist Natalie Lowrey is being held in a concrete cell in Kuantan while she awaits an expected charge under Malaysia's Immigration Act for breaching visa laws.

The Sydney-based woman was among about 1000 protesters at a demonstration outside the plant owned by the Australian minerals company Lynas, according to fellow campaigner Tully McIntyre.

About 16 protesters volunteered for arrest when violence broke out between some of the activists and Malaysian authorities.

Two protesters were taken to hospital after allegedly being beaten by guards.

Locals in Kuantan have been trying to have the facility shut down amid health concerns about the management of radioactive waste from the plant.

Sunday's protest was led by the grassroots Malaysian organisation Himpunan Hijau, which has the backing of the Malaysian opposition, Pakatan Rakyat.

McIntyre said Lowrey was among the group of demonstrators who volunteered to go with police after the protest turned violent.

Lowrey lives in Australia but was travelling on her New Zealand passport.

McIntyre said Malaysian protesters who had been arrested had since been released.

It was hoped Lowrey would also be released on Monday afternoon, but McIntyre said she was still being held while she waited to be charged.

It was unclear when that would happen, but her legal team hoped it would be in the next 24 to 48 hours.

Lowrey wrote on her Facebook and Twitter pages on Sunday that she had been detained with 15 others and included a photograph of some of her fellow demonstrators under arrest.

"I have been arrested with 15 Malaysians in our sttempt [sic] to shut Lynas down One man hurt badly by police I am fine," she wrote.

She later wrote that she was being treated well by the Kuantan authorities.

McIntyre said Lowrey had been allowed out of her cell to call her partner in Sydney and her family, and to meet her legal team.

"She's OK," McIntyre said. "We're just unsure of how long the process will take.

"At this stage it's a bit of a waiting game. She's definitely not going to be released before she goes to court."

McIntyre said she and others had negotiated for hours with Malaysian authorities to speak to Lowrey.

"It's been quite difficult to get a solid answer from anyone out of the police station," she said.

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Greens senator Lee Rhiannon said she had also been in contact with Lowrey's legal team and fellow campaigners.

"Nat's a very courageous young woman who has worked in a very fine way with an increasing number of Malaysians who are realising that what this Australian company is doing is wrong," Senator Rhiannon said.

"You don't process the minerals and then dump the waste on another country."

- FFX Aus

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