Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Malaysia detains Anwar, arrests Indian lawyer

By Jalil Hamid
KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysia briefly detained de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim on Tuesday and arrested a human rights lawyer and about a dozen opposition leaders, amid growing complaints the government is cracking down on dissent.
Immigration officials detained Anwar at the country's main airport on his return from Istanbul via Singapore before clearing him for entry, the former deputy premier told Reuters.
"It's just a clear harassment," Anwar said. "It's a desperate attempt to harass and intimidate the public and deflect the attention from major issues of corruption among UMNO leaders and the judiciary."

UMNO is the United Malays National Organisation, Malaysia's main ruling party.
In the incident that lasted about half an hour, Anwar said he was stopped because his name was on the immigration department's "suspects list", although he was not informed why.
Anwar said he was allowed to leave after a senior immigration officer came out to speak to him, but his name remains on the list, which could bar him from leaving Malaysia.

"No grounds were given," Anwar's lawyer William Leong said of the detention. "There appears to have been some note which put the official on alert to stop (Anwar) from coming in and to detain him until he obtained approval from the superior."

Police also arrested human rights lawyer P. Uthayakumar, who helped organize 10,000 ethnic Indians to protest last month against racial discrimination.
Uthayakumar, 46, would be charged later on Tuesday for sedition for statements he made in a book, his aide said.

In the Malaysian capital, dozens of policemen blocked the main entrance to the parliament building to foil an opposition-led rally demanding free and fair elections.
Riot police, armed with batons and shields and backed up by a water cannon, took positions close to the parliament while vehicles passing through were checked.

Police arrested about a dozen opposition leaders, including the leader of Anwar's Keadilan (Justice) party, Tian Chua, after the car he was in drove through a police cordon and headed toward parliament to hand over a memo demanding electoral reforms.
Tian was arrested after he defied police orders to leave the car. Police handcuffed him and bundled him into a waiting police patrol car.

Police said they had arrested 12 people, including Keadilan Secretary-General Khalid Ibrahim, at the rally. Police have a court order to prevent anyone from gathering outside parliament. Keadilan said 16 were arrested.

Protesters also gathered near Kuala Lumpur's main square.
"We have been stopped and 15 people have been arrested," said 24-year old Chua Yee Ling, an activist with the political lobby group Youth for Change.

"Now we don't want to go further because we don't want to get caught. We will go to the police contingent headquarters to show our support for those who were arrested this morning."
(Additional reporting by Niluksi Koswanage, writing by Liau Y-Sing; Editing by Rosalind Russell)

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