Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Robert Ménard has written to Malaysian interior minister Syed Hamid Albar reiterating the organisation’s call for the release of blogger Raja Petra “RPK” Kamarudin, who has been held under the Internal Security Act (ISA) since 12 September.
Raja Petra was finally able to receive a visit from his wife and two daughters today and will be allowed to see his lawyers on 18 September.
“Section 73 (1) of the ISA allows for a person to be arrested without charge and to be held for 60 days without offering grounds for their detention,” Ménard said in his letter to the interior minister. “You have said you are unable to intervene. Yet you are in charge of the police.”
Tan Hoon Cheng released (harismibrahim.files.wordpress.com)
Journalist Tan Hoon Cheng of the Chinese-language daily Sin Chew and opposition parliamentarian Teresa Kok were also arrested under the ISA on 12 September. Tan was released the next day but Kok is still being held.
The interior minister insisted during a news conference on 13 September in Bukit Aman that he had not ordered the arrest of any of these three people and that it was the police who took the decision. “I cannot intervene,” he said. “That has to be done in agreement with the police.”
The arrests of Raja Petra, Tan and Kok “have highlighted the abuses that are possible under the Internal Security Act,” Ménard’s letter said. “You are of course aware that the minister in charge of legal affairs, Zaid Ibrahim, has submitted a resignation letter in protest against the use of this law. As well as violating press freedom, it is undermining Malaysia’s political harmony.”
The police have been dispersing sizeable opposition demonstrations being staged in the major cities since 13 September in protest against the use of the ISA. About 400 people were nonetheless able to gather in the northwestern city of Penang on the evening of 13 September, observing a minute’s silence in solidarity with the ISA victims and lighting candles as the lights were turned off in the assembly building.
Kuala Lumpur - 16.09.2008
Last night, on the eve of the anniversary of the Greater Malaysia’s independence in 1963 (it shed Singapore two years later), more than 10,000 people gathered in a Kuala Lumpur sports stadium to demand the ISA’s repeal and Raja Petra’s release. It was earlier yesterday that Zaid Ibrahim tendered his resignation as minister in charge of legal affairs. It was rejected by Prime Minister Ahmad Badawi.