KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - Malaysian authorities on Thursday charged a senior federal opposition leader with two counts of abuse of power, a move government critics say is part of a crack down on those opposed to Prime Minister Najib Razak's administration.
Democratic Action Party (DAP) secretary-general Lim Guan Eng, who is chief minister of the opposition-held state of Penang, was charged in the Penang Sessions court with abusing his position in approving a land deal and in the purchase of a bungalow at below market price.
Lim pleaded not guilty to both charges. He was granted 1 million ringgit ($248,570) bail and must notify the high court two days before going overseas.
Leaders from the Pakatan Harapan opposition pact condemned the legal action against Lim.
Senior DAP leader Lim Kit Siang said it was the latest in concerted efforts "to destroy the opposition and defend Najib’s political position".
Azmin Ali, deputy president of opposition partner the People's Justice Party (PKR), criticized the swift action in handling Lim's case amid the "innumerable reports" lodged against Najib.
The Malaysian Anti Corruption Commission (MACC) said in March that it started investigating Lim after a report accused him of abusing his position by securing a two-storey bungalow on the island state at below market price in July last year.
Najib is facing calls to step down over his pet project 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), which is at the center of money-laundering probes in at least six countries including the United States, Switzerland and Singapore.
Najib, who chaired 1MDB's advisory board until it was dissolved in May, also faces criticism over $681 million deposited into his personal account ahead of the 2013 general election. The prime minister has denied any wrongdoing.
Attorney-General Apandi cleared Najib in January this year of any corruption or criminal offences, saying that the $681 million was a gift from a member of Saudi Arabia's royal family and that most of it was returned.
(Reporting by Joseph Sipalan; Editing by Michael Perry)