The Malaysian government should immediately release from detention Malaysian Parliamentarian Tian Chua, the ICJ said.
Tian Chua, who is also Vice President of the opposition Parti Kaedilan Rakyat (PKR), was arrested today for allegedly committing acts under section 143 of the Penal Code on unlawful assembly.
The arrest took place before noon after Tian Chua voluntarily appeared at the Dang Wangi police station in Kuala Lumpur to provide a statement in connection with the investigations regarding his participation in the peaceful KitaLawan rally on 7 March 2015.
The police detained Tian Chua before he could provide his statement.
He has so far not been charged with any offence.
However, if he is charged under section 143 of the Penal Code and convicted, he may be imposed the penalty of imprisonment for up to six months or fined, or both.
“At least 11 opposition figures associated with the KitaLawan rally have now been targeted by the authorities, who have been arresting and detaining them for 24 hours as a form of harassment and intimidation,” said Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s International Legal Advisor for Southeast Asia. “It seems that Malaysia is rapidly returning to the dark days during the late 1980s of systematic pretrial and arbitrary detention under the Internal Security Act.”
The KitaLawan rally was convened in protest at the conviction and imprisonment of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, who was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in February 2015 on charges of sodomy, following a trial conducted in violation of international human rights standards.
The ICJ underlines that in the absence of charges for a cognizable criminal offence not predicated on the exercise of a protected human right, Tian Chua and the other individuals who participated at the KitaLawan rally should not have been arrested and any form of harassment against them must be ended.
Under Malaysian law, police arresting a person without a warrant has to bring the arrested person before a judge “without unnecessary delay”.
The law also provides that no person arrested without a warrant shall be detained for more than 24 hours before being presented to a judge.
“The authorities are abusing their powers and using the law as a form of punishment even before they are convicted of, or even charged with, an actual crime in violation of Tian Chua’s right to presumption of innocence,” added Gil. “This abuse of pretrial detention as a form of harassment aggravates the repressive atmosphere created by the recent misuse of sedition laws to silence critics.”
Tian Chua is expected to be held overnight in prison. He will have his remand hearing on 21 March in the morning.
The ICJ calls for Tian Chua’s immediate release and urges the Government of Malaysia to end all forms of harassment against persons for their participation in peaceful assemblies.
Emerlynne Gil, ICJ’s International Legal Adviser for Southeast Asia, e: emerlynne.gil(a)icj.org, tel. no.: +66 2 619 8477 ext. 206 or +66 840923575