11/24/2016, 13.23
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Online “Free Maria" petition for democracy leader reaches 40,000 signatures

Maria Chin Abdullah was arrested on 18 November for violating Malaysia’s security law (SOSMA). The activist heads Bersih, a pro-democracy movement that is calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Razak. For civil society groups, "The government uses SOSMA to imprison political opponents."

Kuala Lumpur (AsiaNews) – More than 40,000 people have signed an online petition calling for the immediate release of Maria Chin Abdullah, an activist and leader of Bersih, a pro-democracy group.

For days, the hashtag #BebasMaria (free Maria) has been retweeted, gathering more and more support.

The petition also calls for the repeal of the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA). Adopted to defend the country from extremist threats, the government has used it to arrest political opponents.

According to the petition, “When tabling the Bill in Parliament in 2011, the Government assured and promised Malaysians repeatedly that SOSMA would not be used on the basis of differences in political ideology, but it is evident today that the administration led by Prime Minister Najib Razak is reneging on its promise.”

Maria was arrested on 18 November under section 124C of the Penal Code for attempting to engage in activity detrimental to parliamentary democracy. The next day, she was detained under SOSMA.

She is now being held at a secret location and could be detained for up to 28 days.

On Tuesday (22 November), she filed a habeas corpus application to the Kuala Lumpur High Court challenging her detention.

On 19 November, the day after her incarceration, Bersih organised a large demonstration in Kuala Lumpur.

Dressed in yellow T-shirts, 50,000 people marched in the streets of the capital demanding Maria’s release, and the resignation of Prime Minister Razak, who has been embroiled in a multi-billion dollar financial scandal.

Commentator Sherlene Qua said that Bersih (clean) is a movement in favour of clean governance and elections.

“Maria was leading Bersih with these [issues] in mind. [Why] Should she be caught under terrorism [legislation] when she is merely fighting for a cause?”

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