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Malaysia: Stop Legal Harassments of Bersih 5 Organisers and Respect Fundamental Freedoms

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(Bangkok, 19 November 2016) – The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA) strongly condemns the ongoing legal harassment against Bersih 5 organisers. We urge the Malaysian Government to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly enshrined in the Constitution, drop politically-motivated charges and immediately release all Bersih 5 organisers who were arrested yesterday.

Yesterday, the police team from Bukit Aman as well as officers from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) raided the Bersih 2.0 office in Petaling Jaya. The raid was conducted under Section 124C of the Penal Code and lawyers were prohibited to enter the office. Two hours after the raid, the authorities confiscated 10 laptops, payrolls and bank statements. Maria Chin Abdullah, Chairperson of Bersih 2.0, was arrested under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma), which allows detention without charge or access to courts for up to 28 days, and Mandeep Singh, the Secretariat Manager, was arrested under section 147 of the Penal Code (rioting).

This is not the first time that Bersih 5 organisers face legal harassment and intimidation from Malaysian authorities. On November 4, the police questioned Maria over the allegations of Bersih 2.0 having received foreign funding under Section 124C of the Penal Code. The investigation is ongoing and Maria will be called back after the rally.

On 29 October 2016, Maria was arrested in Sabah under the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 (PPPA) for distributing Bersih 5 flyers. Maria was probed under Section 11 of the PPPA, which requires every publication printed or published within Malaysia to bear the name and address of the printer and publisher. Maria was then subsequently released. After the arrest, a number of local Bersih 5 groups have also been threatened to be arrested for distributing the fliers under PPPA and the Sedition Act 1948. Bersih 5 coordinators were also called in for questioning by the police over the convoys held in Johor, Perak, Sabah, Penang and Negeri Sembilan.

“We strongly condemn yesterday’s arrest of Maria Chin Abdullah and Mandeep Singh. It is as a clear attempt by the Malaysian Government to halt the biggest peaceful assembly in the country. The use of ambiguous provisions such as the Section 124C and 147 of the Penal Code is nothing but another intent to suppress people’s rights to freedom of expression and assembly”, says John Samuel, the Executive Director of FORUM-ASIA.

Other organisers of Bersih 5 were also arrested yesterday including Luqman Nul Hakim (student leader), Anthony Loke (DAP), Ronnie Liu (DAP), Jimmy wong (DAP), Lee Khai Ming (DAP), S Arutchelvan (PSM) and Anis Syafiqah (student activist).

FORUM-ASIA urges the Malaysian Government to immediately and unconditionally release Bersih 5 organisers and those who were arrested with the allegations of organising the rally and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly of Malaysian people as enshrined in the Malaysian Constitution.


FORUM-ASIA is a regional human rights group with 58 member organisations in 19 countries across Asia. FORUM-ASIA has offices in Bangkok, Jakarta, Geneva and Kathmandu. FORUM-ASIA addresses key areas of human rights violations in the region, including freedoms of expression, assembly and association, human rights defenders, and democratization.

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