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Bersih chief barred from leaving M'sia, can't accept S Korean award

Electoral watchdog Bersih chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah will not be able to accept the Gwangju Prize Human Rights Award in South Korea on the coalition's behalf because she is not allowed to leave Malaysia.

She found this out today when she was barred from passing through immigration gates at the KL International Airport, Bersih secretariat member Mandeep Singh said.

"No explanation given except that it was Putrajaya's instructions," he said in a text message to Malaysiakini.

When contacted, Maria said she has never been barred from leaving the country before and had gone to New York, Geneva and London before the Sarawak polls on May 7.

"This is ridiculous... It's arbitrary. I feel that it's illegal and contradicts the (federal) constitution," she said.

She says the ticket cannot be refunded, as she has already checked in.

"Now I have to sort it out with Putrajaya."

'Bersih an example of strength'

In 2013, then Bersih chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan, Maria and activists Hishamuddin Raus and Adam Adli Abdul Halim were reportedly told to inform the Immigration Department if they wish to travel.

However, Ambiga reportedly said she checked with the department and was informed she is not barred from leaving the country.

Maria and Ambiga are, however, barred from entering Sarawak, which has immigration autonomy.

The Gwangju Prize for Human Rights is an award by the South Korean May 18 Memorial Foundation to recognise those who advance human rights, democracy and peace.

Bersih was chosen as the co-recipient of the award this year, sharing it with Vietnamese activist Nguyen Dan Que.

"Bersih has been an example of strength for the country in the face of mounting challenges from the state.

"For the first time ever, Bersih gave vibrancy to electoral reform and made it a national agenda for change with its eight demands. This brought them together on the streets to unite for a common cause - free and fair elections," selection committee chair Ok Hyunjin said in a statement announcing this year's selection.

Bersih was also selected for its success in rallying Malaysians of various backgrounds.

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