Published: 24 May 2013 at 00.49
A Malaysian court on Thursday charged a student activist with sedition and police arrested three others, including two opposition politicians, in what critics decried as a crackdown on dissent.
Tian Chua, leader of the opposition People’s Justice Party and a human rights activist, is arrested by Malaysian policemen on December 14, 2005. A Malaysian court on Thursday charged a student activist with sedition and police arrested three others, including Chua, in what critics decried as a crackdown on dissent.
The latest arrests under the Sedition Act — which Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged last year to repeal — raised tensions amid opposition claims that fraud marred the May 5 general election and cost them victory.
Najib’s Barisan Nasional (National Front) coalition won the election, extending its 56-year rule. But opposition rallies, highlighting the fraud claims, have drawn tens of thousands of people throughout the country.
Senior opposition politician Tian Chua, his colleague Tamrin Ghafar, and activist Haris Ibrahim were detained Thursday for investigation under the Sedition Act, Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohmad Salleh said in a statement.
The three were being held over statements made during a public post-election forum on May 13 “inciting” people, he said.
Earlier Thursday student activist Adam Adli Halim was charged under the act over a statement made at the same forum.
The 24-year-old is accused of calling on people to protest at the election results, his lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri said.
The activist pleaded not guilty to the charge, which carries a penalty of up to three years in jail. He had been held in custody for five days until he was charged and released on bail Thursday.
Fadiah slammed the use of the Sedition Act, which Najib vowed to repeal as part of a much-touted drive to strengthen civil liberties, after criticism of its use mounted.
“It’s clearly still being used to stifle dissent,” Fadiah told AFP. “The law is open to abuse… it’s an infringement to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly.”
The home (interior) ministry said it had seized some 2,500 copies of the opposition parties’ newspapers from distributors since Wednesday for failing to meet printing permit regulations.
Saifuddin Nasution Ismail, secretary general of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s party, accused the government of “using undemocratic methods to retain power”.
Chua said earlier Thursday before his arrest that the three-party opposition coalition plans to file election petitions in court to challenge the result in 27 parliamentary seats.
If the challenges were all successful, they would give the opposition victory.
Barisan won 133 of 222 parliamentary seats, but gained only 46.6 percent of the popular vote.
The opposition claims that, amid other problems, the voter rolls were full of irregularities, allegedly to sway the results in favour of Barisan.
The government has denied the election was unfair.