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Protester dies, Malaysia frees 1,600 demonstrators – Channel News Asia
KUALA LUMPUR: 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 on 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 cannisters 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 leaning-up of electoral rolls.
Malaysian authorities crack down on protesters – CNN
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (CNN) — Malaysian authorities cracked down on protesters demanding free and fair elections Saturday, firing tear gas and arresting more than 1,6000 people.
Some 1,667 people had been arrested as of early evening, according to the Royal Malaysia Police, with 16 children among them. Protest organizers said at a news conference earlier in the day that about 400 had been detained.
By Saturday night, police said the crowds had been dispersed.
The government said the protest, organized by a loose coalition of opposition groups known as Bersih 2.0, was illegal. It had already declared Bersih an illegal organization and police said anyone found with Bersih-related materials, such as yellow T-shirts, could be arrested.
“Malaysians of all walks of life overcame the oppressive acts of the police to come out peacefully and in incredibly large numbers to show their love for their country and for the principles of justice,” the coalition said on its website.
Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was among hundreds of protesters who gathered at the Hilton hotel in Kuala Lumpur before heading toward the Sentral Station.
There the protesters breached police lines to march through the rail station, before being met by riot police with tear gas on the other side.
Ibrahim posted on his Twitter account that he had sustained a minor injury during the demonstration and that a staff member had been badly hurt. He also said his youngest daughter had been arrested.
Writing on his blog ahead of the protest, Ibrahim said the “intended peaceful gathering” was to bring Malaysians together “as one united people in pursuit of clean and fair elections.”
He went on: “Our reason for gathering is pure and simple — to demand that the electoral roll be cleaned, that the postal voting system be reformed, that indelible ink be used, a minimum 21 day campaign period be instated, free and fair access to media for all be provided, public institutions be strengthened, and for corruption as well as dirty politics to be stopped.”
Opposition groups have been seeking to put pressure on the ruling party, which has been in power for decades, ahead of elections expected to be called next year.
Among their demands are the use of indelible ink to ensure that voters cannot cast more than one ballot and an extension of the campaigning period,
The Malaysian state news agency Bernama reported that the prime minister had attended an event Saturday at which he described the protest as “an illegal rally organised by a section of our community.”
“If there are people who want to hold the illegal rally, there are even more who are against their plan to hold the illegal gathering,” he is quoted as saying.
There was a strong police presence around the city and many roads had been closed off, local media reports said.
A similar demonstration called by the Bersih coalition in 2007 was broken up by police using water cannon and tear gas, local reports say.