Prosecutors filed sedition charges yesterday against another five opposition politicians and activists who urged Malaysians to protest what they insist was a fraud-tainted victory by the long-ruling coalition in recent national elections.
The five join a student activist charged last week after criticizing the government while speaking at a political forum earlier this month. They pleaded not guilty to making seditious remarks at the forum, and one, an opposition political official, called the charges an intimidation tactic.
Critics of the government say the charges are intended to deter rallies aimed at pressuring electoral authorities to investigate claims of irregularities in the May 5 polls. Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak’s administration has denied unfairly prosecuting the men, saying they flouted a decades-old law meant to preserve public stability.
Malaysia’s three-party opposition alliance has staged many peaceful rallies that have drawn tens of thousands of people since the elections, won by Najib’s National Front coalition with a diminished parliamentary majority.
Najib has rejected accusations that his coalition, which has governed since 1957, relied partly on bogus ballots and illegal voters to cling to power. The National Front won 60 percent of parliament’s 222 seats, but lost the popular vote to opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s alliance.
The five pleaded not guilty in a Kuala Lumpur district court yesterday and were released on bail. One of the men chose to stay in detention to protest the charge.