KUCHING: Sarawak DAP chief Chong Chieng Jen and Stampin MP Julian Tan have pleaded not guilty for participating in a street rally during Bersih 4 here at the Sessions Court.
They were charged under Section 4(2)(c) of the Peaceful Assembly Act 2012 on Monday.
Judge Amelati Parnell released the duo on a RM5,000 bail each, with one surety. The court fixed Jan 14 next year for case management.
Speaking after claiming trial, Chong, who is Bandar Kuching MP, alleged it was a case of "political prosecution".
“The case involves a maximum fine of RM10,000. If there is a conviction, Tan and I will be disqualified from politics and elections for five years," he said.
Both were represented by DAP lawyers including Chong Siew Chiang, Yap Hoi Liong, Alan Ling and Wong King Wei.
Leading the prosecution were senior federal counsel Mohamad Iskandar Ahmad, deputy public prosecutors Mohd Taufik Md Yusof and Poh Yin Tinn.
The DAP MPs were accused of taking part in the street procession on Aug 28 from Hilton Kuching to the Song Kheng Hai rugby pitch, which is the approved venue for the rally.
Earlier, Bersih 4 Kuching organising committee members expressed their surprise that they were charged.
Karen Shepherd, spokesman of the eight-member organising committee, said authorities were opening themselves up to potential criticism and suspicion.
"We are extremely disappointed that any charges should have been brought after Bersih 4 Kuching was universally recognised as a peaceful and orderly event," said Shepherd.
Another Bersih 4 Kuching rally organiser, Ann Teo, said lawyers representing the DAP MPs would likely apply for the case to be thrown out on the basis of the charge being defective or unconstitutional.
Teo said the basis of their defence could be similar to Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah, who is applying to strike out her charge.
"Chin was charged as organiser. This one (against Chong and Tan) is a little different. Section 4(2)(c) is about participating. It is a lesser section but carries the same penalties," said Teo.