Lawyers, activists detained for illegal march in Malaysia

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Singapore, Dec 9: Malaysian police have detained four lawyers and as many activists for partcipating in an illegal march in the Kuala Lumpur City Center today despite being told not to do so with a formal permit by the local authority.

''The organiser did not apply for a police permit to hold an assembly. The lawyers and activists also defied police orders to disperse,'' Police Superintender Che Hamzah Che Ismail told reporters.

A group of 50 people including lawyers, activists, bloggers and members of non-governmental organisations started gathering since 0730 hrs , according to a report by the Malaysian national news agency Bernama.

The marchers, wearing surgical masks as a symbol for not being allowed free speech, started their ''Peace Walk''to mark World Human Rights Day tomorrow.

However, there was some commotion when police ordered them to disperse. Irked by the police order, an argument ensued between the marchers and policemen, leading to the arrest of lawyers and activists, Bernama reported.

In the midst of the argument, some members of the group proceeded to walk to the Bar Council building.

Meanwhile, the Malaysian Bar Council president Ms Ambiga Sreenavasan said she was disappointed with the police for detaining eight people, including four lawyers, for participating in the peaceful walk.

She said the people should be given the freedom to assemble peacefully.

''I believe it would have been a peaceful march if not for the police presence,'' Bernama quoted her as saying.

Ms Sreenavasan was seen at the entrance to the Kuala Lumpur police contingent headquarters late this morning presumably to negotiate the release of the eight people detained.

However, she was denied entry as police did not want her to interfere with investigations, said the report.

About 100 policemen posted on the march areas. Malaysia has been hit by protest rallies. On November 25, an estimted 5,000-20,000 ethnic Indians had protested for being marginalised in the country.


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