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Malaysian Student Charged with Sedition, 2 Others Arrested

  • VOA News

Activist Adam Adli is escorted by police at a courthouse in Kuala Lumpur, May 23, 2013.
Malaysian authorities have charged a student activist with sedition and have detained two others, including an opposition politician, on similar charges after their involvement in a campaign to challenge what they say are fraudulent election results.

Prosecutors Thursday charged Adam Adli under the country's controversial Sedition Act for allegedly telling a political forum that Malaysians should take to the streets and "seize back power" following the vote. The 24-year-old, who pleaded not guilty and was released on bail, faces up to three years in prison, if convicted.

Malaysian police also detained senior opposition politician Tian Chua and rights activist Haris Ibrahim under the Sedition Act. Speaking to VOA from a police station in Kuala Lumpur Thursday, Tian said his detention is an attempt by the government to stifle dissent and discourage criticism of the May 5 election results.

"[The purpose is] I think to crack down on civil liberties and to cover up questioning of the irregularities in the elections," he said. "[But] I will continue to challenge this illegitimate government."

Tian is vice president of the opposition People's Justice Party, one of the three that make up the opposition Pakatan Rakyat coalition. Police have not commented on the charges against him or Haris.

Earlier this month, Malaysian authorities threatened to pursue sedition charges against dozens of speakers at a massive, unauthorized opposition protest against the election results.

Prime Minister Najib Razak's ruling coalition won a majority of parliament seats in the May 5 election, extending its 56-year hold on power, despite losing the popular vote for the first time in decades.

The opposition says the ruling coalition manipulated the vote, in part by using fraudulent ballots, flying in foreigners to cast votes and restricting media freedom. The government denies the charges.

The opposition coalition, led by ex-deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim, has launched what it calls a "fierce movement" to challenge the vote and reform Malaysia's electoral system.

It also is pushing for changes to the country's Sedition Act and Peaceful Assembly Act, which some rights groups say are being used to stifle dissent.

Najib said last year that he planned eventually to abolish the Sedition Act, which was enacted during British colonial rule of Malaysia.