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Malaysia 11 February 2009

Two court cases test online free expression
Call for charges to be dropped against blogger “RPK” and Hindu rights activist Uthayakumar

Reporters Without Borders calls for the withdrawal of the charges against blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin, also known as “RPK”, and human rights lawyer P. Uthayakumar, whose cases were heard in appeal hearings yesterday before the federal court in Putrajaya, the country’s highest court. Both Kamaruddin and Uthayakumar have run afoul of the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA), under which suspects can be held for two years without trial.

“Both RPK and Uthayakumar are victims of a law that openly violates the right to free expression,” Reporters Without Borders said. “RPK spent 56 days in detention at a minister’s pleasure. Uthayakumar is still being held in this manner in appalling conditions, and has been so for the past 426 days. If the judicial system dared to question what has happened, it would demonstrate some impartiality. We hope it can rise to the challenge posed by these cases.”

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Kamaruddin’s case was postponed yesterday until 17 February at the request of his seven lawyers, who have challenged the partiality of one of the three judges, Augustine Paul. At the next hearing, a new panel of judges will consider the interior minister’s appeal against a 7 November high court decision to free Kamaruddin, who had been held at the minister’s behest following his arrest on 12 September under article 73 (1) of the ISA for allegedly spreading confusion and insulting “the purity of Islam.”

Kamaruddin edits the Internet Malaysia Today website (http://mt.m2day.org/2008/), in which he often criticises government policies. There are two other cases currently pending against him, one on a charge of defamation, and the other on a sedition charge. An hearing in the defamation case is to be heard before the Kuala Lumpur high court tomorrow.

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The federal court in Putrajaya yesterday rejected a request for the release of Uthayakumar for the second time. Held under the ISA since 13 December 2007, his case was heard at the same time as those of four other members of Hindu Rights Action Force (Hindraf).

Uthayakumar is accused of violating the ISA by posting a letter he wrote to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown on his website asking Brown to support a UN security council resolution condemning the Malaysian government’s “atrocities” and “persecution” of the country’s Hindu minority and referring the case to the International Criminal Court.

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its call for the release of Uthayakumar, who is diabetic and has been mistreated while in detention.

“Throughout these 14 months of my imprisonment under the ISA, my health condition has deteriorated,” he wrote in an open letter on 10 February that was posted online. “Sometime on or about January 2008, I believe I had suffered a silent heart attack at a time when I was denied my diabetic medication (...) sugar is being added to my food from time to time.”




In this country
11 May - Malaysia
Human rights lawyer P. Uthayakumar freed
24 March - Malaysia
Government bans two opposition party newspapers for three months
17 February - Malaysia
“Your Majesty, do everything in your power to prevent any judicial error”
10 November - Malaysia
Two journalists and a blogger arrested as police violently break up rally
7 November - Malaysia
Leading blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin finally released

in the annual report
Malaysia - Annual report 2008
Malaysia - Annual report 2007

reports
4 May 2009 - Nepal
Mission report : A call to end violence and impunity
2 April 2009 - Pakistan
Fact-finding visit by Reporters Without Borders to Swat “valley of fear”
16 March 2009 - Afghanistan
Report of fact-finding mission : Press freedom in free-fall in run-up to presidential election
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2 June - China
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