A prominent Malaysian blogger was charged yesterday with sedition for allegedly implying the deputy prime minister was involved in the sensational killing of a young Mongolian woman.
Raja Petra Raja Kamaruddin, who has not denied that he linked Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak to the slayings, pleaded innocent to the charge, telling reporters later that he should have the right to hold the powerful accountable for wrongdoing.
He was taken to a detention center after he refused to post bail.The court set the trial for Oct. 6.
“I am not posting bail. See you guys in guys in October,” Raja Petra told supporters before police took him away.
“I will be out for Christmas. Don’t worry,” he said as he embraced his wife and others.
Dozens of opposition members and bloggers had gathered to show support for Raja Petra outside the Kuala Lumpur magistrate’s court where he was charged.
Critics slammed the charge, which carries a maximum punishment of three years in jail, as a blow to freedom of speech.
“Raja Petra has done a lot to raise people’s awareness of issues,” said Nurul Izzah Anwar, an opposition member of parliament and daughter of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.
“This is an attempt to clamp down on all sorts of freedom. We would have thought that after the elections, things would have changed,” Nurul Izzah said, referring to the huge losses the ruling National Front coalition suffered in the March 8 elections.
The sedition charge stems from an April 25 article titled “Let’s Send the Altantuya Murderers to Hell” that Raja Petra posted on his popular Web site Malaysia Today.
Prosecutors say the article implies that Najib and his wife were involved in the 2006 killing in Malaysia of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old Mongolian interpreter.
Abdul Razak Baginda, a close associate of Najib, is charged with abetting the murder. Two policemen have been accused of killing her and destroying her body with explosives in a jungle clearing. The trial of the three men began in June last year and is under way.
The prosecution contends that Abdul Razak had the woman killed because she pestered him for money after he ended their affair.
Prosecutors said in the written charge that Raja Petra “published a seditious article.”
It said the sentences include allegations that Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi “is covering up evidence implicating Najib in the murder.”
Raja Petra said he was not worried by the sedition charge.
“I am happy. I want to challenge the government. We bloggers have declared war on the government. We are not scared of the government. The government should be scared of us,” he told reporters before going into the court.
“Is it seditious to influence people against corrupt leaders? There is nothing seditious,” he said. “Do you think I do not have evidence?”