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Wearing this yellow T-shirt can land you in prison in Malaysia

Reuters/Edgar Su
Public disorder?
By Steve Mollman
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

Wearing the yellow T-shirt pictured above can land you in a Malaysian jail. A judge made that clear today (Feb. 19) in a case closely watched in the Southeast Asian nation.

The shirt was worn by pro-democracy demonstrators during nationwide rallies in late August 2015 calling for less corruption in government. The word Bersih is printed on the shirt, which means “clean.”

A few days before the rallies, Malaysia’s top security minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, abruptly declared the T-shirt illegal, along with any other yellow material with the rally logo on it, resulting in some arrests during the protests.

Earlier this month, Zahid’s representatives were forced to defend the decision to enact that ban, in response to a lawsuit filed by the rally organizer, known as Bersih 2.0. Zahid’s lawyers argued that he could call for such a ban if he sensed a risk to public order. The prosecution said that mere T-shirts don’t threaten public order, and thus the ban wasn’t justified.

The Shah Alam High Court today sided with Zahid, saying he has the power to ban the shirts under a section of the Printing Presses and Publications Act. That means that anyone caught with the T-shirt is criminally liable.

Bersih 2.0 indicated it would appeal today’s decision—and urged Malaysians to wear the banned T-shirt in protest.

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