MALAYSIAN police on Thursday summoned nine individuals for questioning over the recent rally in the city calling for the arrest of “Malaysian Official 1”, the unnamed official at the center of a U.S. lawsuit on the 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) funds scandal.
Those called up include opposition lawmakers Teo Kok Keong and Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad, and student Anis Syafiqah Mohd Yusof, the young activist said to be the face of the gathering.
— Arianna (@MalaysiaStylo) September 1, 2016
According to The Star, Anis Syafiqah said she was questioned today on the speech she gave during the rally which took place last Saturday.
Nik Nazmi said they were being investigated under the Penal Code, the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 and the Sedition Act 1948, a colonial-era preventive law that the Malaysian opposition and civil rights groups in the Southeast Asian nation want abolished.
— Melissa Sasidaran (@melissa_ms) September 1, 2016
“We regret the charges as the demonstration went on peacefully,” he was quoted saying in the report.
In Malay Mail Online, Nik Nazmi was quoted saying those summoned were told that they would face three charges in court, including a charge of threatening parliamentary democracy.
— Lawyers for Liberty (@lawyers4liberty) September 1, 2016
During the rally, some 1,000 Malaysians converged on the streets of the capital of Kuala Lumpur demanding that the authorities take action against “Malaysian Official 1” or “MO1” for short.
The official was named in a U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) lawsuit filed in July to seize more than $1 billion (RM4 billion) in assets allegedly bought with money siphoned from 1MDB, a state-owned firm.
The DOJ has not expressly confirmed the identity of “MO1” but the country’s opposition leaders and anti-government dissidents insist that it refers to Prime Minister Najib Razak, who oversees the fund.
During the afternoon gathering, the group of protesters led by Anis Syafiqah defied police orders and marched towards Dataran Merdeka or “independence square” all the while chanting “catch MO1”.
“If we don’t speak out, who else will push them, the authorities, to arrest a criminal who has given us so much grief?” Anis was quoted saying then in a Reuters report.
“Can we send MO1 to jail and bring that person to face justice?”
— Melissa Goh (@MelGohCNA) August 27, 2016
Malaysian police had previously warned protesters against staging their rally at Dataran Merdeka, pointing out that federal law on peaceful assemblies require organizers to obtain permission from owners of the venue.
The square falls under the jurisdiction of the KL City Hall, which had earlier said it would not grant permission to rally organizers.
But despite the police warning, reports on Twitter said the gathering went on peacefully without the authorities’ intervention for about two and a half hours.
Later, in a report by the New Straits Times later, police said that the authorities would review all photographs and videos taken during the rally.
Dang Wangi police chief Asst Comm Zainol Samah also said that he was yet to receive reports of any untoward incidents.
“We will review photos and videos of today’s rally and conduct an investigation,” he was quoted saying, adding that an estimated over 1,000 people participated in the gathering.
The DOJ said last month that at least $3.5 billion has been stolen from the Malaysian fund founded by Najib. It has initiated action to seize $1.3 billion it said was used to buy assets in the U.S.
It said in court filings that more than $700 million had landed in a Malaysian official’s accounts. It didn’t name the official, but appeared to be referring to Najib.
The department also named several individuals as being involved, including Riza Aziz, who is Najib’s stepson, businessman Low Taek Jho, Khadem Abdulla Al-Qubaisi and Mohammed Ahmed Badawi Al-Husseiny.