Malaysian police arrested Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party) youth leader and state assemblyman Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad at his home in Denai Alam, Selangor, yesterday (Sunday).
He was released on police bail at about 2 a.m. today after giving a statement.
There was an attempt on Saturday to arrest the assemblyman after a protest rally in central Kuala Lumpur, but the politician’s supporters wrested him away from police.
Just before the attempt to arrest Nik Nazmi (pictured left), police detained the leading student activist Adam Adli Abdul Halim and the head of the PKR-backed Jingga 13 non-governmental organisation Fariz Musa.
They were arrested at the end of Saturday’s rally in support of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
Both were taken to the Jinjang lock-up in Kuala Lumpur and were detained under Section 143 of the penal code, accused of unlawful assembly with criminal intent. They were detained overnight, and were released on police bail at about 11 a.m yesterday (Sunday).
Nik Nazmi, who is the Selangor state assemblyman for Seri Setia, was also arrested for investigation under Section 143. Police went to his home at about 9.45 p.m. He was taken to the Jingang lock-up.
PKR communications director, Fahmi Fadzil, said about 10 police officers from the serious crime unit in Dang Wangi turned up at Nik Nazmi’s house. “Nik Nazmi was with his wife and child when the police came to the house,” he said.
On Saturday, Nik Nazmi said that he would cooperate with police, but only if any arrest was carried out in the proper fashion. “Police in plain clothes tried to arrest me after they got Adam. I condemn them for not identifying themselves nor informing me of my offence in their attempted arrest,” he said in a statement.
In 2013, the assemblyman was charged under the Peaceful Assembly Act for organising the Black 505 rally at the Kelana Jaya stadium after the May 5 elections. The charge was dropped after he challenged the constitutionality of the law at the Appeal Court.
On February 10, the federal court upheld a ruling by the Court of Appeal last year, which found Anwar (pictured left) guilty of sodomising his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008, and sentenced the former deputy prime minister to five years in prison.
The verdict has been heavily criticised both locally and internationally. Amnesty International said the decision to jail Anwar was an oppressive ruling that would have a “chilling effect” on freedom of expression in Malaysia.
Anwar says the case against him was fabricated by his political enemies.
His lawyers say he is facing serious health risks because he is living in a bare cell with just a two inch-thick foam mattress on the floor, a bucket for bathing, and a squat toilet.
A series of arrests
Adam, who is a law student, has also been arrested in the past. In September 2014, he was found guilty of sedition, sentenced to 12 months in jail, and released on bail pending his appeal against the conviction.
The arrest of activists follows rallies in Kuala Lumpur on February 14, and 21. The arrests are further evidence of the serious clampdown on opposition that is taking place in the country. The Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) secretary-general, S. Arutchelvan, was arrested under the Sedition Act on February 19. Police confiscated his computer, modem, and mobile phone.
He was detained over a PSM statement that condemned the Federal Court for upholding Anwar’s conviction. The statement said the Malaysian courts were not independent and were politically driven.
Just after S. Arutchelvan was released, police arrested activist Lawrence Jayaraj, also under the Sedition Act, over comments he posted on his Facebook page. He was also released yesterday.
On February 11, the cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, better known as Zunar, was arrested for sedition over his criticism of the judiciary. A cartoon posted by Zunar on Twitter showed Malaysia’s prime minister, Najib Razak, as the judge in Anwar’s case. “Those in the black robes were proud when passing sentence,” Zunar tweeted. “The rewards from their political masters must be lucrative.”
The government had previously pledged to repeal the 1948 Sedition Act, which critics say is being used to stifle dissent, but it later announced that the Act will be retained and expanded.
On January 15, a new loose youth coalition was formed. The coalition, which is called Kita Lawan (“We will fight”), has called for a mass demonstration on March 7 and 8 in protest at Anwar’s jailing.
The coalition is also demanding the immediate resignation of the prime minister, Najib Razak, and reform of the judicial system “to restore its independence”. The youth movement also condemned the conviction and jailing of Anwar as a “political conspiracy”, for which they say Najib is responsible.
The grouping was formed when about 80 young people from different sections of society met to discuss the way forward.
The meeting followed a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on March 14, during which hundreds of young people marched through the city, calling for Anwar’s release, an independent judiciary, and an end to the 57-year rule of UMNO (the United Malays National Organisation).
Rallies are being held every Saturday afternoon outside the SOGO shopping centre.
Last Saturday’s rally (above) and the protest on February 14 (right).
Article updated at 13.53 p.m., 23/02/2015.