Bersih chief released after 10-day detention

Ms Chin back home with Ms Ambiga after being released from police detention yesterday. She was held for being a key organiser of a street protest - Bersih 5 - against the government of Malaysian PM Najib Razak.
Ms Chin back home with Ms Ambiga after being released from police detention yesterday. She was held for being a key organiser of a street protest - Bersih 5 - against the government of Malaysian PM Najib Razak.PHOTO: TWITTER ACCOUNT OF AMBIGA SREENEVASAN

PETALING JAYA • Malaysian police yesterday released Bersih chief Maria Chin Abdullah after detaining her for 10 days for being a key organiser of a street protest against the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak.

Ms Chin was detained under the controversial Security Offences (Special Measures) Act (Sosma) on the eve of the Nov 19 Bersih 5 rally, which called on Datuk Seri Najib to resign to take responsibility for a huge financial scandal.

The Act allows the police to hold her for 28 days for questioning, before she is brought to a court if the authorities want to extend her detention.

Ms Chin's lawyers had last week filed a habeas corpus application at the High Court seeking her immediate release from detention.

The court had set today to hear the application.

Ms Chin, 60, said she was told by the police that they will cease their investigation on her under Sosma, Malaysiakini news website reported, but will probe her for another offence, which was not explained.

"They took a statement and said they will release me. They also said a different set of investigation will carry on," she said.

Government critics and rights groups have said that Sosma was enacted to curb terrorism, not to be used against someone organising a peaceful street protest.

The Bersih 5 demonstration in Kuala Lumpur was attended by just over 15,000 people, said the police. Organisers said more than double that number attended.

Ms Chin's release yesterday afternoon was tweeted by another leader of the Bersih electoral reform group, Ms Ambiga Sreenevasan, who wrote: "Our dear friend Maria has been set free! Praise God! She is with me and is well!!!"

She later tweeted that Ms Chin was home and showed pictures of the latter hugging her three boys.

Police did not say why they released her. Faced with criticism of the arrest, government figures had in recent days defended the move.

"Sosma is not for terrorism alone. It can also apply for anything that disturbs national security and sovereignty," Malaysian Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed told reporters last week.

Kuala Lumpur Criminal Investigation Department chief Rusdi Mohd Isa said yesterday that Ms Chin was released at about 4.45pm.

THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 29, 2016, with the headline 'Bersih chief released after 10-day detention'. Print Edition | Subscribe