Authorities detain three anti-government figures, charged a student activist with sedition and seized hundreds of opposition newspapers
Malaysian authorities detained three anti-government figures, charged a student activist with sedition and seized hundreds of opposition newspapers on Thursday, raising political tensions after recent national elections triggered claims of fraud.
Opposition activists have staged numerous peaceful demonstrations since the general elections held on May 5, which the National Front coalition won with a weakened parliamentary majority. The activists insist the coalition, which has governed since 1957, retained power through bogus ballots and other irregularities, though Prime Minister Najib Razak and electoral authorities deny manipulating the results.
The latest arrests involve Tian Chua, a senior official in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s People’s Justice Party; Haris Ibrahim, a rights activist who leads an anti-government group; and Tamrin Ghafar, an opposition party member. The men have criticised the National Front at recent political gatherings.
Mr. Chua wrote on Twitter that police detained him at an airport and told him he was being held for sedition. Mr. Ibrahim and Mr. Ghafar were held separately, but it was not immediately clear what they were being investigated for. Police officials responsible for their case could not be contacted immediately.
After his arrest, Mr. Chua tweeted that Malaysians should not allow themselves to be “overtaken by fear (but should) continue to assemble peacefully and have faith”.
Their arrests occurred hours after prosecutors charged student Adam Adli, 24, with making seditious statements that included calling for people to “go down to the streets to seize back our power”, while addressing a political forum. He pleaded innocence at a Kuala Lumpur district court on Thursday and was released on bail ahead of a hearing in July. He could face three years in prison if convicted.
Sedition as defined by Malaysian law includes promoting hatred against the government. Activists have long criticised Malaysia’s anti-sedition law as a tool to curb democratic dissent. Mr. Razak said that last year the government planned to eventually abolish the Sedition Act, which was introduced in 1949 during British colonial rule, and replace it with new laws that would strike a better balance between allowing freedom of speech and ensuring public stability.
The Home Ministry said it had seized more than 2,500 copies of newspapers published by opposition parties from nationwide stores since Wednesday. The licences issued for those newspapers specifies that they should be distributed among party members only and were not for retail sales, the Ministry said in a statement.