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Malaysia Opposition Leader Charged with 'Insulting' Police


FILE - Malaysian opposition leader Tian Chua, left, and student activist Safwan Anang arrive at a court house in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 29, 2013.

FILE - Malaysian opposition leader Tian Chua, left, and student activist Safwan Anang arrive at a court house in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, May 29, 2013.

A senior Malaysian opposition politician has been charged with "insulting the modesty of a police officer," a charge he told VOA is politically motivated.

The accusation against Tian Chua stems from an April incident during which police tried to confiscate his cellphone as part of an investigation into a previous sedition case against him.

Tian told VOA that a minor scuffle broke out between himself and the plainclothes police, leading to what he described as a tense exchange.

"I did use some rough words with the police - that I wouldn't deny. The question is that I don't think that constitutes any threat to the police officer," Tian said.

Not guilty plea

The opposition politician on Tuesday pleaded not guilty to the charge, which is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine. He said he could also lose his political position, if convicted.

Tian said he "definitely" believes the charge is politically motivated, saying there is no legitimate grounds to prosecute him for what he terms as a "trivial incident."

"In fact, it was an incident in the process of trying to build a case against me. Now they take it and use it to further - well, basically, it's a form of persecution towards opposition members," Tian said.

The sedition case against Tian, which was later dropped, related to a message he posted on Twitter vowing that "the people will bring down (Malaysian Prime Minister Najib) Razak in 5 months, that I promise you!!"

Tian posted the tweet earlier this year following the sodomy conviction of fellow opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.

Tian is the vice president of the People's Justice Party, one of three that make up the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition that is led by Anwar.

Anwar was a key leader of a campaign to challenge what the opposition viewed as a fraudulent May 2013 election that delivered a victory to the Barisan Nasional coalition led by Prime Minister Najib.

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