KUALA LUMPUR, Jan 1 — Several student activists at the Sultan Idris University of Education (UPSI) who held a peaceful demonstration demanding academic freedom were allegedly beaten up and arrested early this morning after refusing a police order to disperse.
Up to 17 were arrested by the police at about 2am, said lawyer Fadiah Najwa Fikri. They were still being detained, she added.
The Lawyers for Liberty coordinator said the police had acted in a heavy-handed manner against the students, which resulted in one, Muhammad Safwan Anang, the president of undergraduate movement Gerakan Menuntut Kebebasan Akademic (Bebas), being sent to a hospital in Slim River after he lost consciousness.
“They were beaten up, kicked and punched. According to an eyewitness, Safwan lost some teeth,” Fadiah Najwa told The Malaysian Insider over the phone.
Fadiah said she was not sure how many were involved in the beating of Safwan, “but there were too many..
She said the undergraduates, whom she estimated to number about 60, had held a sit-down demonstration in the campus from midnight to protest the University and University Colleges Act (UUCA) and in solidarity of another student activist Adam Adli Abdul Halim.
Adam Adli, 21, has come under fire after hitting headlines as the UPSI student who lowered a banner bearing Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s likeness outside Umno’s headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
The police, both uniformed and in plainclothes, had swooped in 30 minutes later.
“A lot of them were beaten up,” Fadiah said, adding that one activist had tried to help Safwan but was arrested in the process.
“I’m not sure if the families [of those arrested] are informed. The police had seized their phones from the beginning.”
Fadiah said so far the lawyers are not allowed to correspond with the students, who are all currently detained at the Tanjung Malim police station.
“They are at the police station but were not allowed to physically meet with the students,” she said, pointing out that there was no legal representation for the undergraduates.
“Adam had texted me after the incident, but I have no heard from him since,” the lawyer said.
She noted that the police have set up roadblocks leading into Tanjung Malim town following the incident, based on her Twitter checks.
“There are now roadblocks all along the highway leading into Tanjung Malim itself. That’s crazy!” Fadiah said.
This morning’s incident, at the start of the new year, has drawn condemnation from opposition politicians, who demanded Home Minister Datuk Hishammuddin Hussein and Inspector General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar explain the police’s violent actions.