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Malaysia to End Death Penalty and Sedition Act

FILE - A battered Malaysian national flag flies in front of the Petronas Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, April 10, 2018. Malaysia's government says it will abolish the death penalty and halt all executions.

Malaysia's government plans to abolish the death penalty and a colonial-era law used to suppress dissent, officials said this week.

Law Minister Liew Vui Keong said Wednesday the Cabinet would end the death penalty and halt all scheduled executions until the law takes effect. More than 1,200 people are currently on death row.

"All death penalty will be abolished. Full stop," he was reported saying by the New Straits Times.

Communications and Multimedia Minister Gobind Singh Deo said Thursday that the Sedition Act, introduced by the British in 1948, will also be repealed.

Both proposals are expected to be brought before Malaysia's parliament Monday.

The Sedition Act has been expanded over the decades to outlaw any act, speech or publication that brings contempt against the government or Malaysia's nine royal sultans. Human rights group have frequently accused the Malaysian government of using the law as a weapon against opposition politicians, journalists, students, academics and others who criticize the government.

Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad's Pakatan Harapan coalition dominated a general election in May after promising to weed out corruption and end oppressive laws.

Former Prime Minister Najib Razak detained dozens of politicians and activists critical of his administration under the Sedition Act, after being accused of stealing billions of dollars from state-owned development firm 1Malaysia Development Berhad in 2015.