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Malaysia 23 October 2008

Authorities accused of bad faith as Habeas corpus hearing held for detained blogger

Lawyers Malik Imtiaz Sarawar, Jadadish Chandra, Azhar Harun and Amarjit Sidhu

Reporters Without Borders condemns the attitude taken by government representatives at hearings on the detention of Malaysian blogger Raja Petra “RPK” Kamarudin, whose lawyers submitted arguments for a writ of habeas corpus at a hearing yesterday. The organisation appeals to the court to show clemency when it issues its ruling on 7 November.

Raja Petra is being held in Kamunting detention centre, northeast of Kuala Lumpur, under section 8 of Malaysia’s draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows for detention without trial for two years.

“The authorities have displayed a glaring lack of good faith since the start of this case,” Reporters Without Borders said. “RPK is being held under the only ISA section that lets the government imprison a person without giving a reason. It was clearly a manoeuvre to silence someone who had criticised the government and senior officials on his website. We appeal for clemency and we hope the court’s ruling will reflect the need to protect free speech.”

Wife Marina Lee and their 2 daughters

RPK’s lawyers insisted that his arrest was unconstitutional at yesterday’s hearing. RPK was arrested initially under article 73 (1) of the ISA for spreading confusion and insulting “the purity of Islam.” The article specifies that there must be “objective” grounds for such an arrest and RPK’s lawyers argued that posting articles online were not sufficient grounds for claiming he represented a concrete threat to internal security.

A hearing had been scheduled before a Kuala Lumpur high court on 23 September but, on the eve of the hearing, interior minister Syed Hamid Albar issued an ordering transferring RPK to Kamunting under article 8 (1) of the ISA.

This article says: “If the minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the maintenance of essential services therein or the economic life thereof, he may make an order directing that person be detained for any period not exceeding two years.” The detention order can be renewed indefinitely.

Reporters Without Borders added: “As well as being issued arbitrarily, behind closed doors and without informing his lawyers, this detention order is devoid of any legal basis as it violates Raja Petra’s constitutionally-guaranteed right of religious freedom.”

Vigil in Kuala Lumpur ( 19 oct 2008 ©TEO)

The editor of the Malaysia Today ( website, RPK was already the subject of a criminal defamation suit and a sedition charge because of articles criticising the government that he had posted on the site.

Since RPK’s arrest, more than 100 activists have been staging a vigil every Sunday in Kuala Lumpur to demand his release and the ISA’s repeal. Similar vigils are now to be organised in other parts of the country.

RPK was previously arrested as a threat to internal security under article 73 (1) of the ISA in Sungai Buloh (west of Kuala Lumpur) on 11 April 2001 because of an article entitled, “Fighting fire with fire.” He was held at Sentul police station in Kuala Lumpur for two weeks before transferred to a secret place of detention. In all, he was held for 52 days.

“Free RPK” (19 oct. 2008 ©TEO)

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