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Malaysian Police: Speakers at Opposition Protest Delivered 'Seditious Speeches'

Malaysian police are threatening to file sedition charges against those who spoke at a massive, unauthorized opposition protest against what they say are fraudulent election results.

Tens of thousands of Malaysians attended the Wednesday protest, organized by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Police had threatened to arrest anyone present at the gathering outside Kuala Lumpur, which they had warned was illegal.

Datuk Tun Hisan Tun Hamzah, the police chief where the rally was held, said Thursday that 28 out of 33 opposition leaders at the rally were found to have "delivered seditious speeches" under the country's Sedition Act.

He also said the organizers "clearly failed" to adhere to the Peaceful Assembly Act, which requires them to give the government 10 days notice before the event takes place.

Many of the protesters wore black T-shirts with "050513" to mark the date of the poll won by Prime Minister Najib Razak's coalition. Anwar says the rally is the beginning of a "fierce movement" to challenge the vote and reform Malaysia's electoral system.

Final results from Sunday's election show the National Front coalition captured a large majority of the seats, despite losing the popular vote for the first time in 44 years.

The opposition has complained of massive fraud, including the alleged use of ink to mark voters that critics say could be easily washed off. There also were complaints of foreigners being flown into the country to cast ballots.

Independent observers have given a mixed verdict on the election.

A White House statement on Wednesday congratulated Prime Minister Najib on the win, but said the United States believes it is important that Malaysian authorities address "concerns regarding reported irregularities."

Mr. Razak, who was sworn in on Monday, has firmly dismissed the fraud charges, insisting that the results were in line with opinion polls that suggested his coalition was likely to win.

Although the ruling bloc was able to win 133 of the 222 available seats and extend its 56-year rule, it only received 48 percent of the popular vote, compared to 52 percent for the opposition. It is the ruling coalition's poorest electoral performance since Malaysia's independence from Britain in 1957.

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