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Asia-pacific

Police release hundreds of pro-democracy protesters

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-07-10

Malaysian police said Sunday that they had released all 1,667 people who had been arrested for attending the country’s largest pro-democracy rally in four years on Saturday. One man also died in the protests.

AFP - A taxi driver who took part in protests demanding electoral reform in Malaysia died after he collapsed while running away from a police tear gas attack, the opposition and his family said Sunday.       

News of the death came as authorities said they have freed hundreds of people arrested when riot police dispersed the protesters with volleys of tear gas and water cannon on Saturday.
             
Baharuddin Ahmad, 59, a former soldier, was running away after police fired gas canisters in the capital Kuala Lumpur when he collapsed, his brother Mohamad Sharin told AFP. He was dead by the time he arrived at hospital.
             
Baharuddin, a member of the opposition Pan-Malaysia Islamic Party (PAS), was buried Sunday at a Muslim cemetery Sunday, with about 300 people attending the funeral.
             
"We are proud of him, he died in a struggle," his daughter Umi Mirza, a medical doctor, told AFP at their home in a northern suburb.
             
Police spokesman Ramli Mohamed Yoosuf confirmed the death but said the man was a bystander who had died of a heart attack.
             
The police had declared the rally illegal and imposed a massive security lockdown on the capital ahead of the protest.
             
"The death has nothing to do with the demonstration. He died due to a heart attack. There was no external or internal injuries," Ramli told AFP.
             
Ramli also said that all 1,667 people arrested during the protest, including prominent legislators and rally leaders, were freed around midnight Saturday after demonstrators had dispersed.
             
They were arrested for illegal assembly, but Ramli would not say if they had been charged.
             
Among those freed were Ambiga Sreenivasan and Maria Chin Abdullah, top leaders of Bersih, the broad coalition group that led Saturday's rally to demand electoral reforms.
             
Abdul Hadi Awang, president of the PAS, the country's largest opposition grouping, and Nurul Iman -  the daughter of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim -  have also been released.
             
Anwar, who was not arrested but was injured when he was knocked down during the chaos, has been released from hospital after being kept in overnight for head and leg injuries, his aides said.
             
Normality returned to Kuala Lumpur late Saturday after police dismantled barriers put up around the city in a massive security lockdown ahead of the protest, the biggest in Malaysia since 2007.
             
Organisers said 50,000 people joined the protest, while police estimated there were 10,000 demonstrators in total.
             
With elections expected to be called early next year, demonstrators have been demanding changes to put a stop to vote buying and prevent irregularities which they say marred previous polls.
             
Bersih, which means "clean" in Malay, wants indelible ink to be introduced to prevent multiple voting, equal access to the media for all parties and the cleaning-up of electoral rolls.

 

Date created : 2011-07-10

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