Reporters Without Borders condemned the trial for sedition opening today against Raja Petra Kamarudin, the 58-year-old editor of the online newspaper Malaysia Today.
He was appearing before the Shah Alam court under Section 4(1) of the 1948 Sedition Act after writing an article about the implication of leaders of the ruling party in the 2006 murder of a young Mongolian woman. He pleaded not guilty at the first hearing of the case.
“The government is abusing the law in order to silence critical voices and to gag free expression,” the worldwide press freedom organisation said.
Raja Petra Kamarudin is being hounded by the courts and could end up serving a very long prison sentence. It is an unacceptable criminalisation of the freedom to reveal facts and opinions”, it said.
The journalist has already been in prison since 12 September 2008, serving a two year sentence under the Internal Security Act (ISA). He was jailed without trial for “insulting a political leader” and “insulting Islam”.
“He is being punished twice, it is a double incrimination, but his morale remains high”, his wife, Marina Lee, told the Associated Press (AP). She has told the government that her husband “is not a threat to state security and he will never be silenced”.
The sedition charges relate to an article posted on his website on 25 April 2008, “Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell”, that implicated Prime Minister Najib Razak, and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, in the murder of a young Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Two police officers have been accused of using explosives to destroy the body after having killed her. Abdul Razak Baginda, a colleague of Najib Razak, has been accused of collusion. The trial of these three is ongoing.
If he is found guilty of sedition, Raja Petra Kamarudin faces three years in prison. Throughout the hearing, his supporters and friends and family were present inside and outside the court, all wearing T-shirts with the slogans, “Free RPK” or “I am with RPK”.
One of them told the Reporters Without Borders’ correspondent, “I don’t know Raja Petra Kamarudin personally, but he has done so much for the Malaysian people that we owe it to him. He has managed to awaken the political conscience of every citizen. Being here for him is the least we can do. We will not tolerate injustice”. Several opposition politicians have also attended to demonstrate their support.