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Malaysia court strikes down ban on student political activity

The Malaysian Court of Appeal [official website] on Monday ruled that a law prohibiting college students from taking part in political activities is unconstitutional. The suit, filed by four International Islamic University of Malaysia [official website] students in 2010, challenged the constitutionality of the 1971 Universities and University Colleges Act (UUCA) [text, PDF]. Under section 15 of the UUCA, students are not permitted to "be a member of, or ... in any manner associate with, any society, political party, trade union or any other organization, body or group of persons whatsoever." The court ruled that this prohibition violates the Malaysian Constitution [text, PDF], specifically the protection of the freedom of expression. The students' lawyer, Ashok Kandiah, called the ruling a "landmark decision." The International Islamic University of Malaysia has said it will appeal the ruling [AFP report] to the Federal Court of Malaysia [official website] the nation's highest court.

The constitutional challenge to the UUCA is not the only ongoing legal challenge to long standing Malaysian law. Early this month, Malaysia's government released 125 prisoners [JURIST report] who were being held under a decades-old security law that has been widely criticized by human rights and opposition groups. In an address to Parliament [official website], Prime Minister Najib Razak [official profile] announced the release of all individuals being held under the Restricted Residence Act of 1933 [text, PDF], the British colonial-era act that enables authorities to banish suspects to remote districts and force them to report regularly to police. In September, Razak announced that the government would repeal two strict security laws [JURIST report] that had allowed extended detention of suspects without trial. The government also said that it will review other laws dealing with freedom of the press, including the Restricted Residence Act.

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