Friday, November 7, 2008
Raja Petra Kamaruddin Freed
This is good news out of the increasingly over-Islamic Malaysia.
Malaysia's top blogger released from detention
Malaysia's leading blogger, Raja Petra Kamaruddin, was Friday released from detention under controversial internal security laws after a court ruled the government had no right to hold him.
Raja Petra, a vocal government critic who had been held at a notorious detention camp since September, wept and embraced his family after being freed by the Shah Alam High Court.
"I'm realy glad it's over. I'm really tired. The judge's decision proves that there was no justification for my detention," he said, calling for an end to the Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows for detention without trial.
"We have to fight all-out and get the ISA abolished," he told reporters.
Looking haggard and dressed in a brown T-shirt and jeans, Raja Petra was garlanded by dozens of supporters outside the court before stepping into a maroon Rolls Royce provided by a supporter to ferry him home.
"It's a great day for human rights and fundamental liberties," said Malaysian human rights commissioner Denison Jayasooria.
"The executive must use the ISA only in situations where there is a real threat to national security," he told AFP.
Raja Petra, founder of the popular Malaysia Today website which has outraged top leaders with its stream of critical stories, was detained in September for writing articles that allegedly insulted Islam.
His lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar said the High Court ruled earlier Friday that Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar had acted outside his powers by ordering Raja Petra to serve two years in detention without trial.
"The judge ruled that the circumstances which existed at the time that Raja Petra was detained did not satisfy the threshold conditions under the ISA," he told AFP.
Malik said it was the first time a court has ordered the release of an ISA detainee since 1989, when courts were barred from interfering once a detention order has been signed by the home minister.
"It is certainly an historic ruling and a profound moment for civil liberties in this country," he said, while adding that the government can appeal the decision.
Opposition parliamentarian Lim Kit Siang said the ruling "sustains hope that basic judicial decency, independence and integrity have not been completely destroyed, despite two decades of judicial darkness."
He called on the government to "fully respect" the verdict and "slap down any trickery or stratagem to frustrate the judicial decision, such as a re-arrest."
Raja Petra is best known for his articles on politics, and had already been charged with sedition and defamation for linking Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife to the sensational murder of a Mongolian woman.
But he was also accused of threatening public security and causing racial tension by inciting hate in his articles on Islam -- a serious offence in predominantly Muslim Malaysia.
There has been a rash of detentions in recent months under the ISA, which allows for renewable two-year periods of detention without trial.
Raja Petra was detained on the same day as opposition lawmaker Teresa Kok and journalist Tan Hoon Cheng, both of whom have since been freed.
Tan's arrest in particular caused a furore as she had merely reported on racist comments from a ruling party member who was subsequently suspended by the United Malays National Organisation.