Malaysia charges police for assaulting photographer

A Malaysian court has charged two policemen for assaulting a photographer who was covering a mass rally for electoral reforms last month, according to a lawyer.

Mohamad Khairul Asri Mohamad Sobri, 30, and Shahrul Niza Abdul Jalil, 24, both pleaded not guilty Friday in a magistrate's court in the capital Kuala Lumpur to a charge of using "criminal force," defence lawyer Salim Bashir said.

Wong Onn Kin, a photographer for the Chinese-language Guang Ming Daily, was covering the April 28 mass protest in Kuala Lumpur when the two policemen and reportedly two others still at large allegedly assaulted him.

The offence carries a maximum three-month prison sentence and fine. Both men, who are still serving in the force, posted bail with the next court date scheduled for June 18, Salim said.

Tens of thousands of Malaysians led by poll reform group Bersih 2.0 took to the streets last month to demand fair and clean elections, calling for a thorough cleanup of the voter roll and overhaul of the Election Commission.

When protesters breached a barricade set up around a central square to prevent demonstrations there, police retaliated with tear gas and water cannon. More than 500 people were arrested, and activists say many protesters and some media personnel were roughed up.

Police are currently rounding up protesters they accuse of causing unrest, while at least two men have been charged in court over participating in the demonstration.

The crackdown has hurt Prime Minister Najib Razak's campaign to portray himself as a reformer who grants greater civil liberties ahead of elections expected to be called soon.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission has said it is looking into implementing suggested reforms to the system, such as allowing international observers and an estimated one million Malaysians abroad to vote.

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