MALAYSIA: Blogger Raja Petra charged with sedition

Prosecutor Nordin Hasssan said parts of Petra's post alleged wrongdoing by the police, judicial system and the government

The Straits Times
Wednesday, May 7, 2008

By Carolyn Hong

PETALING JAYA --- Prominent Malaysian blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin was yesterday charged with sedition and later taken to jail when he refused to post RM5,000 ($2,100) bail.

In one of the first criminal cases against a blogger, the 58-year-old was charged over his posting about the killing of Mongolian Altantuya Shaariibuu. Government prosecutors say it contained seditious paragraphs.

The April 25 posting, headlined "Let's Send The Altantuya Murderers To Hell," implicated Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor in the killing.

Separately, businessman Syed Akbar Ali was also charged yesterday with sedition for posting a comment on Raja Petra's website on June 5 last year.

The ex-banker, 48, allegedly made seditious comments on Islam. He posted the RM3,000 bail set by the court.

In the Mongolian murder case, political analyst Razak Baginda, a close associate of Datuk Seri Najib's, is charged with abetting the killing by two policemen in 2006. The trial, which began in mid-June last year, is still under way.

Raja Petra, a member of the Selangor royal house, pleaded not guilty to the sedition charge.

'We bloggers have declared war on the government. We want to change the government,' he told reporters before he was formally charged.

The charge was lambasted by the opposition as an attempt to clamp down on blogs. About a dozen opposition Members of Parliament turned up at the courthouse in a show of support for Raja Petra.

Dozens of his supporters were also present, with some shouting 'Suara Petra, suara negara' (Petra's voice, the nation's voice), 'Daulat Tuanku' (Long live the King) and 'Reformasi'.

Raja Petra's blog, Malaysia Today, is one of the most controversial in the country because of his no-holds-barred postings.

While the charge has been criticised, the government appears intent on sending the message that it will no longer close an eye to damaging Internet insinuations.

Raja Petra was charged a week after an aide to Datuk Seri Najib wrote in to say the allegations against the Deputy Prime Minister were unfounded.

Police last week seized two computers from Raja Petra's house.

Yesterday, prosecutor Nordin Hasssan said in court that parts of Raja Petra's article suggested wrongdoing by the police, public prosecutors and the judiciary, and the government.

Under Malaysian laws, sedition includes inciting hatred or contempt towards the government and the administration of justice, and raising discontent among the people.

Hearing was fixed for the Oct 6 week.

Raja Petra, who was represented by seven lawyers, told his supporters that he will not post bail as he does not have the money. If he does not post bail, he would be in jail until the hearing starts.

His wife Marina Abdullah told The Straits Times that his supporters have donated more than RM24,000 since yesterday morning,

The donations are seen by observers as an astute move to galvanise a groundswell of support.