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Anwar Ibrahim arrested again

Malaysian authorities on Tuesday detained opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim at the capital's airport and arrested at least 12 protesters who defied a ban on handing a petition to parliament.

world Updated: Dec 12, 2007 04:06 IST

Malaysian authorities on Tuesday detained opposition figure Anwar Ibrahim at the capital's airport and arrested at least 12 protesters who defied a ban on handing a petition to parliament.

The incidents were the latest moves in a government crackdown on its critics who have organised a series of street demonstrations that have drawn tens of thousands and sent shockwaves through the nation.

Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi said on Monday he was willing to sacrifice public freedom to maintain national security, justifying the arrests of dozens of people on charges including attempted murder and sedition.

Anwar, the former deputy premier who became a vocal government critic after being sacked and jailed in 1998, said he was held for an hour at Kuala Lumpur's international airport (KLIA) after returning from a trip to Turkey.

"I was detained by immigration officials at KLIA this morning and wish to state that the authorities have placed my name on a 'suspect blacklist'," he said.

"I think it is a sustained effort to harass opposition leaders," he added, describing the crackdown as a government attempt "to deflect from the core issues of endemic corruption, high crime rates and a poor economy."

An immigration spokesman said he had no knowledge of Anwar's detention at the airport, but that names for the blacklist are usually provided by police.

Keadilan officials said however that the move was linked to his involvement in the Bersih electoral reform movement which staged a mass rally last November as well as Tuesday's petition protest.

More than 400 police surrounded the parliament to block the electoral reform campaigners who were forced to march there on foot after all roads leading to the building were closed off, causing traffic chaos in Kuala Lumpur.

Police said 12 people had been arrested, including several members of Anwar's Keadilan party and one from the hardline Islamic party PAS, while Keadilan said 21 had been detained, including a 13-year-old boy.

Trees lining the streets were posted with copies of a court order obtained by police that banned the campaigners from parliament.

"The authorities should not have done this. They should have been given the right to hand over a memorandum. After all, that's all they just wanted to do," Keadilan president Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, who is Anwar's wife, said.