59-year-old Maria Chin Abdullah was charged in the Sessions Court this morning, 3 November, for organising Bersih 4.0 rally without giving at least 10 days of prior notice to the police as required under Section 9(1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012
She was charged on her capacity as organiser of the rally, at the KL Sessions Court.
She was charged under the Section 9 (1) of the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA), which requires rally organisers to notify authorities 10 days in advance or face no more than a RM 10,000 fine.
Deputy public prosecutor Wan Shaharuddin Wan Ladin asked for a RM5,000 bail.
However, she pleaded not guilty to the charge and was granted bail
Her councel Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan objected to his request claiming her client was not a flight risk.
“Maria has no intention of going anywhere and she will stay to fight this. The matter of bail should not apply to this case and I ask that no bail apply here as there is no ground for it,” she said. The defense also argued that their client was not a flight risk and always cooperated with the authorities.
Sessions Court judge Mat Ghani Abdullah approved the bail without deposit, which means Maria would give the court her word that she was not a risk, and she would not need to pay the RM5,000.
The case will go to trial on 11 December 2015
Maria said her defense will be raising the issue that the charge against her was defective and unconstitutional.
“They should actually drop the charge against me. In the Nik Nazmi case, the decision is still valid and the court appeal had made the 10 notice null and void. During the time of Bersih 4, the 10 notice was null and void as per Nik Nazmi’s case.
PKR leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad had a similar charge struck out after the court declaring that the requirement to provide a 10-day notice prior to holding a rally, as stipulated under the PAA, as unnecessary and unconstitutional, before another case overturned the judgement with their ruling in an appeal concerning Johor PKR secretary R. Yuvaneswaran. Therefore now the Seri Setia assemblyman is being charged for the third time under PAA for failing to provide prior notice for the Black 505 rally in 2013.
Meanwhile, Amnesty International said that the move to charge Maria for organising the rally is clearly nothing but politically motivated, adding that it highlights a wider, vindictive push to silence others who take to the streets to voice their opposition
“These vindictive charges against Maria are clearly politically-motivated and should be dropped immediately. The authorities in Malaysia are trying to punish those who voice their opposition peacefully and create an overall climate of fear to deter other activists from doing the same,” Amnesty International’s South East Asia campaigns director Josef Benedict said.
“Instead of listening to the people who demonstrated at the Bersih 4 rally, the Malaysian government is doing everything in its power to increase repression further.”
Amnesty International in its statement released today also pointed out how the charges against Maria and Lasimbang came in the context of a widening crackdown on freedom of expression in Malaysia over the past two years.
“The authorities have, in particular, made use of the Sedition Act, a draconian colonial-era law that gives the government sweeping powers to silence dissent,” Benedict said.
“The government’s relentless effort to silence anyone who voices critical opinions of the state is incredibly alarming, and shows no sign of letting up. This must end immediately – space for public debate in Malaysia is under serious threat,” Benedict said.
Najib had in 2012 pledged to repeal the Sedition Act 1948, but made a U-turn at the Umno general assembly in December last year and announced that the law would instead be fortified.
A number of people, mostly opposition leaders and academicians, have been arrested and charged with sedition.