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Malaysia set to deport Australian senator – Al Jazeera English

Malaysia set to deport Australian senator

Nick Xenophon, who planned to meet opposition officials, detained at Kuala Lumpur airport, prompting Australian concern.

Last Modified: 16 Feb 2013 15:31

Xenophon was meant to meet opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim to discuss upcoming elections

Malaysian authorities are preparing to deport an Australian senator who said he had been refused entry because he was considered a “security risk” in advance of a visit to discuss an election with government and opposition officials.

Nick Xenophon, an independent Australian senator, said he was detained when he arrived early on Saturday at an airport in Kuala Lumpur.

The Malaysian foreign ministry confirmed that Xenophon was being held.

“We are aware that the Australian senator has been detained at the airport and we are currently working with the Australian embassy to access the situation,” a ministry official said.

“Senator Xenophon’s detention is a surprising and disappointing act from a country with which Australia routinely maintains strong diplomatic relations”

– Bob Carr, Australian Foreign Minister

Xenophon said airport officials told him arrangements were being made for him to leave Malaysia on the next available flight.

“I was told I am a security risk and I can’t be allowed into the country,” he told the Reuters news agency.

“It is bizarre and extraordinary.”

Xenophon said other members of an Australian delegation had cancelled their trip after he was refused entry.

Bob Carr, Australian foreign minister, said officials were seeking Xenophon’s immediate release and have raised the issue with the Malaysian government.

“Senator Xenophon’s detention is a surprising and disappointing act from a country with which Australia routinely maintains strong diplomatic relations,” Carr said in a statement.

Planned meetings

Xenophon said he had travelled to Malaysia to meet Bersih members; officials of several parties including opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim; officials from the prime minister’s department; the elections commission; and the judiciary.

Bersih has staged several mass rallies for electoral reforms, such as a clean-up of the voter list.

Bersih’s rally in April last year in Malaysia ended in police crackdowns with tear gas and water cannon [Reuters]

The latest rally last April, which Xenophon attended as an observer, ended in police crackdowns with tear gas and water cannon.

Xenophon said he had received a letter from Ibrahim, who is a former Malaysia deputy prime minister, last year that outlined concerns about the election and called for independent observers.

Australia and Malaysia have had a sometimes difficult diplomatic relationship.

The two countries clashed 20 years ago when Paul Keating, then Australian prime minister, called his Malaysian counterpart Mahathir Mohamad “recalcitrant” for boycotting the 1993 Asia-Pacific economic forum.

Malaysia’s forthcoming elections are expected to be the toughest ever facing Prime Minister Najib Razak’s coalition, which has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1957.

The Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or SOSMA, was introduced last year to replace the much-criticised colonial-era Internal Security Act, which allowed indefinite detention without trial.

Najib has touted SOSMA and other reforms to show he is granting more civil liberties, but rights group have criticised the new act, saying it still gives broad powers to detain people for lengthy periods.

Source: Agencies

via Malaysia set to deport Australian senator – Asia-Pacific – Al Jazeera English.

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