A Malaysian opposition leader is facing charges for violating the peaceful assembly act after a protest calling for electoral reforms turned violent last month.
Anwar Ibrahim allegedly ordered protesters, the yellow-shirted movement called Bersih, to break through barriers and police barricades in Merdeka Square, where demonstrations are banned, prompting the police to use teargas and water cannons to split the crowd of at least 25,000 people.
Human Rights Watch condemned the police’s excessive force. Ibrahim was ordered into court and could lose his seat in parliament.
Bersih is protesting for forthcoming elections to be fair and is against the ruling coalition that has led Malaysia since its independence in 1957.
Protests are also aimed at pressuring Prime Minister Najib Razak to enact promised electoral reforms such as determining vote irregularities and fraud. PM Najib Razak repealed the colonial-era act that allowed indefinite police detention. The Malaysian government told the Financial Times that it will charge anyone who committed violent acts in the Bersih protest.