Global rights group Amnesty International urged Malaysia on Friday to end its “post-election crackdown” which has seen four critics arrested in the aftermath of the government’s worst electoral result.
The arrests made in the past week under the Sedition Act – which Prime Minister Najib Razak pledged last year to repeal – comes amid opposition claims that fraud marred the May 5 general election and cost them victory.
London-based Amnesty International said the two politicians, including an elected lawmaker, and two activists were arrested under the “repressive law ... solely for peacefully expressing their political beliefs”.
“Rather than abolishing the repressive sedition law as promised, the government is now using it against peaceful protestors,” said its Asia-Pacific deputy director Isabelle Arradon in a statement.
Senior opposition politician Chua Tian Chang, his colleague Tamrin Ghafar, and activist Haris Ibrahim were detained on Thursday, Kuala Lumpur police chief Mohmad Salleh said in a statement.
The three were held overnight for what police said were statements made during a public post-election forum on May 13 “inciting” people. They were released on Friday after a further remand application was denied by a local judge.
Earlier on Thursday student activist Adam Adli Halim was also charged under the Sedition Act over a statement made at the same forum, and then released on bail.
The clampdown shows no sign of slowing down. Opposition MP Thomas Su said on Friday he has been ordered to appear in court on Monday to face a charge under the Peaceful Assembly Act for allegedly organising an “illegal” post-election rally.
Najib, whose party won 133 of 222 parliamentary seats but gained just 46.6 per cent of the popular vote, announced last year he would repeal the Sedition Act, calling it part of a “bygone era”.
The opposition claims voter rolls were full of irregularities, allegedly to sway the results in favour of the ruling coalition led by the United Malays National Organisation.
The government has denied the election was unfair or that the recent arrests are politically motivated.
“I believe (the police) have the basis and solid evidence ... and I played no part in the operations,” home minister Zahid Hamidi was reported as saying by state news agency Bernama on Thursday.