Malaysia Defends Police Activity
KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) _ Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad rejected claims Monday that police beat at least five people who were detained after attending an anti-government protest over the weekend.
Mahathir’s comments came the same day as a judge ordered 46 of those arrested to remain in police custody without charges until Saturday for further investigation. A 17-year-old was to remain in jail until Wednesday.
``Harsh or not harsh, people must know that they should not demonstrate,″ Mahathir told reporters. ``Let’s see them prove that Malaysian police beat up demonstrators. Why is it that the lawyers of the opposition don’t talk about the opposition beating up the police and burning their motorcycles?″
Mahathir, long the leading Asian spokesman for anti-Western ideology, pointed to the arrests of some 600 demonstrators protesting a meeting of world financial leaders in Washington over the weekend.
``They were even more violent, strangling people’s necks,″ he said. ``Other people can do _ but we cannot do? That is what you get in America.″
The 46 were nabbed Saturday during a protest in Kuala Lumpur by supporters of fired deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim. The ``Black 14th″ protest was to mark the first anniversary of Anwar’s conviction on corruption charges and six-year prison sentence.
Opposition leaders and local human rights groups have condemned police for storming the National Mosque and firing water cannons at hundreds of people on a balcony chanting, ``God is great.″
Police also launched tear gas and pursued demonstrators down alleys in downtown Kuala Lumpur. The people had been shouting for Mahathir to step down after nearly 19 years in power.
By midnight Saturday, 48 people were in jail, facing criminal charges for illegal assembly. Ten people had been arrested earlier, including key leaders of the Anwar’s National Justice Party. Two more protest organizers turned themselves in to police on Monday.
They face up to two years in jail and a fine of $525.
Legal Aid attorney Charles Hector said that at least five of the men say they were ``kicked around like footballs″ while in police custody and denied medical treatment.
Marian Abdul Majid, the wife of one of those being detained, told The Associated Press that police have not allowed her to bring her husband asthma medication.
When the 46 detainees were brought into court in handcuffs Monday, several were on the verge of tears and many looked tired and frightened. None, however, appeared beaten or bruised.
Dozens of police guarded the Magistrate Court, just down the street from where Anwar is being tried on charges that he sodomized his former family driver, a crime in this predominantly Muslim country.
When Mahathir sacked his popular deputy in September 1998, it provoked unprecedented political demonstrations in the Southeast Asian capital.