Malaysian democracy activists released from prison

July 29, 2011
The PSM 6
The Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) 6.

The PSM 6 — six leading members of the Socialist Party of Malaysia — were released from prison on July 29 after a national and international campaign for their release.

Malaysian authorities had held the six democracy activists — Choo Chon Kai, Sarat Babu, M Sarasvathy, M Sukumaran, A Letchumanan and parliamentarian Dr Jeyakumar Devaraj — since July 2.

Malaysian police arrested the six in the lead up to a large July 9 protest organised by the “Bersih 2.0” democracy movement. Bersih 2.0 demanded the government commit to free and fair elections.

The six were held under the notorious Emergency Public Order and Prevention of Crime Ordinance. The Emergency Ordinance allows Malaysian police to hold citizens indefinitely without charge or trial.

At first, the police said they had arrested the PSM 6 on suspicion they planned to “wage war against the King”. Later, the authorities accused them of being the ringleaders of the July 9 Bersih 2.0 rally, at which the police arrested about 1600 peaceful protesters.

Jeyakumar had begun a hunger strike the day before his release, which put extra pressure on the police to release the six activists.

The six were met by hundreds of supporters after their release, said the July 30 Malaysian Star.

Jeyakumar told reporters at a media conference: “We believe our release was due to the support of the people. Even [ruling party [Barisan Nasional] leaders said that we should be freed.”

Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Director, Sam Zarifi, welcomed the release of the PSM 6.

He said on July 29: “While the release of these six activists is welcome news, Malaysia should immediately release the thousands of people arbitrarily detained under this grossly unfair [Emergency Ordinance] law.

“Preventive or arbitrary detention violates the right to a fair trial. Malaysia should respect this right instead of having a whole host of laws that punish people before they are even proven guilty in a court of law.

“There is no justification for Malaysian authorities still using these problematic preventive detention laws.”

About 2000 people are being held without trial in Malaysia under the Emergency Ordinance law.

In Sydney, a solidarity rally on July 29 called for the unconditional release of the PSM 6. Footage of the action is below.

Video: Solidarity with PSM 6 from Australia. Peter Boyle.

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