Malaysia arrests activists ahead of banned rally

By the Associated Press | July 8, 2011 | 11:29 PM EDT

A Malaysian policeman lines up a gate on a road in front of independence square in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Friday, July 8, 2011. Malaysian police said they will shut major roads and suspend public transportation into Kuala Lumpur's city center to thwart opposition-backed activists, who vowed Friday to press ahead with a banned rally for electoral reforms. (AP Photo/Vincent Thian)

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia (AP) — Activists say Malaysian police have detained at least 21 people trying to assemble near a historic stadium for a banned rally seeking electoral reforms.

The rally is the culmination of weeks of pressure on Prime Minister Najib Razak's long-ruling coalition to make election laws fairer and more transparent ahead of national polls widely expected by mid-2012.

Police sealed off key roads across Kuala Lumpur and deployed trucks mounted with water cannon near the Independence Stadium where opposition-backed activists hope tens of thousands of people would gather later Saturday.

The Bersih coalition of civic groups says authorities have starting arresting people who planned to attend the rally.