HRW says the government should also drop charges against opposition leaders who were involved in the mammoth rally on April 28.
PETALING JAYA: Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged the Malaysian government to drop the charges against Bersih 3.0 protesters, including Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim and PKR deputy president and supreme council member, Azmin Ali and Badrul Hisham Shaharin.
In a statement today, HWR Asia’s deputy director Phil Robertson said Anwar merely gave a speech during the rally and was not even an organiser for Bersih 3.0.
“The Malaysian authorities appear to be using what happened at the Bersih demonstration as a pretext to prosecute political opposition leaders.
“These charges and actions by police during the rally doesn’t inspire confidence that the Malaysian government is committed to protecting freedom of expression,” he claimed.
Earlier today, Anwar, Azmin and Badrul were charged in Sessions Court under Section 4(2) (c) of the Peaceful Assembly Act, for participating in the Bersih 3.0 rally and violating magistrate Zaki Asyraf Zubir’s court order dated April 26.
The court order prohibited the gathering at Dataran Merdeka and the area bordering Jalan Sultan Hishammuddin, Jalan Raja and Jalan Kelab.
If convicted, the trio could face a fine up to RM10,000. Elected representatives would automatically lose their posts if fined more than RM2,000 and jailed for more than a year.
Police used excessive force
Robertson said although the police obtained a court order to stop the rally, Bersih only proceeded with a demonstration in the areas surrounding areas of Dataran Merdeka.
“The rally occurred mostly without any incident but the police used excessive force by tear gas and water cannons, while assaulting scores of protesters,” he said.
Robertson also called upon the government to repeal the Peaceful Assembly Act and come up with a new legislation that would conform with international human rights standard.
“The Act bans street protests and contains an overly broad list of areas in which all assemblies are banned. The law makes it virtually impossible for protesters to hold demonstrations in urban areas,” he said.