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Police arrest four at lawyers' march

Malaysian police arrest four people at a protest staged by lawyers, who gathered despite a rally being called off due to controversy over two demonstrations last month.

world Updated: Dec 09, 2007 09:54 IST

Malaysian police on Sunday arrested four people at a protest staged by lawyers, who gathered despite a rally being called off due to controversy over two demonstrations last month.

The Bar Council last week cancelled plans to hold a march to mark International Human Rights Day in light of the crackdown on street rallies that were broken up with tear gas and water cannon.

But 40 lawyers and supporters defied the decision and walked through Kuala Lumpur, holding a banner reading: "Lawyers for freedom of assembly together with the people."

They were outnumbered by more than 300 police officers who used loudhailers to order them to disperse, and then arrested three prominent lawyers and another demonstrator.

"Authorities seem to be upset by any visible signs of protest and I think this is a problem with the country," said lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah, who is also a leader of the Keadilan opposition party.

"They don't seem to be able to deal with peaceful dissent," he told AFP before he was arrested.

Organiser Latheefa Koya, who was also arrested, said that Malaysians needed to continue to exercise their constitutional right to public assembly.

Malaysia's government has been shaken by recent street rallies, including one in early November when 30,000 demonstrators thronged the capital calling for electoral reforms.

Later in the month, at least 8,000 ethnic Indians held an anti-discrimination rally that saw dozens arrested.

Those detained on Sunday were taken to Kuala Lumpur police headquarters.