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NGO appeals for sedition charges against Malaysian cyber-activists to be dropped

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Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), a FORUM-ASIA member, has issued an urgent appeal condemning sedition charges against two Malaysian cyber-activists as a politically motivated violation of their right to freedom of speech and expression aimed at silencing criticism of the government.

Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM), a FORUM-ASIA member, has issued an urgent appeal condemning the sedition charges against two Malaysian human rights defenders, Raja Petra Kamruddin and Syed Akbar Ali.
Raja Petra Kamruddin is one of Malaysia’s most prominent bloggers. He wrote an article in his blog on 25 April, 2008, about the murder of Mongolian translator Atlantuya Shaariibuu. The article, entitled “Let’s Send the Atlantuya Murderers to Hell” was posted on his news blog “Malaysia Today” and contained an allegation that Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife were involved in Atlantuya’s murder. Although he initially refused to pay bail of 5000 ringgit, he was later released on 09 May, 2008, after his family persuaded him to change his mind. His trial is scheduled for 06 October, 2008. If found guilty, he faces up to three years in prison and could be fined 5000 ringgit.

On the other hand,  Syed Akbar, has been accused of posting seditious comments about Malays and Islam in response to Raja Petra’s blog article entitled, “Malaysia’s organized crime syndicate: All roads lead to Putrajaya”. He has been released on bail and will appear in court for a hearing on 10 June, 2008.

The two reportedly became the country’s first “internet citizens” to be charged with sedition under Malaysia’s Sedition Act 1948 at the Petaling Jaya Sessions court in the state of Selangor on 06 May, 2008. According to SUARAM, this is a violation of their right to freedom of speech and expression. In its statement, SUARAM urged the Malaysian government to withdraw all the charges filed against the two men immediately and unconditionally.

According to SUARAM: “The sedition charge is malicious and without merit. It is also politically motivated and aimed at silencing one of the most eloquent, dedicated and uncompromising voices speaking in defense of the rights of Malaysians and against the abuse of power stemming from the highest level of government and authority.”
Bloggers or “cyber-activists”, like these two men, are human rights defenders since they challenge the culture of impunity pervasive in their society. Raja Petra Kamruddin and Syed Akbar Ali are trying to urge the government to elicit the truth in the case of the murder of Atlantuya Shaariibuu and bring justice to her and her family.

FORUM-ASIA is deeply concerned over the human rights violations against Raja Petra and Syed Akbar, and has sent communications regarding this case to the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression.