Bersih leader Maria freed on police bail

Fadiah Nadwa FikriPETALING JAYA: Maria Chin Abdullah, leader of the Bersih electoral reform group, was arrested in Sabah today while taking part in a road convoy to publicise next month’s Bersih 5 street rally.

Bersih steering committee member Fadiah Nadwa Fikri told FMT that the arrest was believed to have been under Section 11 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984 for distributing leaflets

“Suddenly the police came up and arrested her,” she said. “The investigating officer is still doing his report, but they did mention something about the Sedition Act. We don’t know yet what the status is going to be.”

Maria was taken to the Kota Marudu police station after her arrest in Langkon, according to a Bersih posting on Twitter. She was later freed on police bail, Fadiah said.

Fadiah said the police had warned the Bersih 5 road convoy when they left Kudat, saying that what they were doing was illegal.

“We said that there was nothing illegal about this convoy, we have notified the police this whole time. “Then they said, ‘you know, it doesn’t matter, we have the power to stop you from doing this’,” Fadiah said.

Shortly after the police warning, two men on motorcycles started harassing the convoy, while the police watched, Fadiah said. “For the past five weeks, the police have not done anything to stop the convoy, so why now? It’s quite clear that they’re targeting Maria.”

Earlier this week, Maria had been engaged in an exchange of words with the Inspector-General of Police, Khalid Abu Bakar, about whether notice had been provided for the Bersih 5 rally, planned for Nov 19 in Kuala Lumpur.

Khalid had claimed that Bersih 5 organisers had deliberately broken the rules by refusing to apply for a permit to hold their rally, in an attempt to attract worldwide attention.

However, Chin said Khalid may have not known that a notice was submitted on Friday, as required under the Peaceful Assembly Act.

She said a notice had been sent to the federal police headquarters in Bukit Aman and to Brickfields and Dang Wangi district police stations. She said the Brickfields police, had confirmed receiving the notice.