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Over 1,600 held in Malaysia for protests


Kuala Lumpur : Over 1,600 people who participated in street rallies in the Malaysian capital city Saturday were arrested, police said Sunday.

The 1,667 arrested activists were later released, Xinhua reported.

Bersih – a non-government organisation – had vowed to launch street demonstrations July 9 advocating for a clean and fair general election.

Their demands include introducing automatic voter registration, reforms to postal voting and the use of indelible ink.

Home Minister Hishammuddin Hussein had said Bersih and its opponents were only allowed to rally at a stadium outside Kuala Lumpur and any action inside the capital city was illegal.

Riot police fired tear gas and water cannons to disperse activists of the Coalition for Clean and Fair Elections (Bersih) who took to the streets to demand electoral reform.

Though Xinhua said the number of demonstrators had reached 50,000, authorities put the figure at five to six thousand people.

Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim held a press conference Sunday morning condemning the police action at the rally. He was also arrested Sunday.

Meanwhile, members of a rights group under the United Malays National Organisation (Umno) – Malaysia’s biggest political party and a member of the ruling coalition Barisan Nasional – held a counter rally against Bersih to defend the country’s electoral system.