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Malaysia authorities seize newspapers, detain opposition activists

The Malaysian Ministry of Home Affairs [official website, in Malay] on Thursday seized [press release, in Malay] more than 2,500 copies of newspapers published by opposition parties. The Ministry states that the seized newspapers were sold in violation of their publication licenses, which limit the distribution of opposition party newspapers to party members, not public retail sale. Malaysian authorities have also made several unpopular arrests [AP report], including Tian Chua, a senior official in opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim's People's Justice Party [official website]; Haris Ibrahim, a rights activists who leads an anti-government group; and Tamrin Ghafar, an opposition party member, all of whom criticized the ruling Barisan Nasional (BN) [party website] party at a recent political gathering. Prosecutors have also charged student Adam Adii for making seditious statements. Malaysian law defines sedition as promoting hatred against the government, and if convicted, Adii could face three years in prison. Political tensions have been high since Malaysia's May 5 general elections in whichBN won a weak majority of parliamentary seats. Opposition activists have staged a number of peaceful protests in response, alleging that BN has retained power since 1957 through the use of bogus ballots and other irregularities.

In October a Malaysian court awarded damages [JURIST report] to a group of five opposition politicians and activists who were unlawfully detained pursuant to the country's controversial Internal Security Act of 1960 (ISA) [text, PDF], which permits indefinite detention without trial for terror suspects, dissidents and political opponents. Three politicians and two activists were detained without trial for two years after being arrested in 2001 following anti-government protests. Last year the Malaysian Parliament [official website, in Malay] approved a law [JURIST report] aimed at replacing the ISA. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak [official profile] originally announced [JURIST report] that the government would repeal the ISA as well as the Banishment Act of 1959 [text] in September 2011 and initiated the repeal [JURIST report] a month later.

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