A popular Malaysian blogger yesterday pleaded not guilty to sedition over an article he wrote that linked the deputy prime minister and his wife to the murder of a Mongolian woman.
Raja Petra Kamaruddin, founder of the popular Malaysia Today site that frequently airs criticism of government leaders, has also been held in detention since August under tough internal security laws.
Najib, who is expected to replace Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the country’s next leader, has denied any involvement in the 2006 murder of 28-year-old Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Najib’s close friend, Abdul Razak Baginda, is on trial for abetting the murder, and two police officers from a unit that guards the prime minister and his deputy have been charged with the killing.
Raja Petra, 58, pleaded not guilty to the sedition charge lodged over an article published in April entitled “Let’s Send the Altantuya Murderers to Hell.”
“I claim trial,” a tired-looking Raja Petra told the court.
Lawyers said that Malaysia’s Sedition Act, a relic from British colonial times, has historically been used to prevent uprising against the leadership, as well as disharmony among the people.
Raja Petra’s wife, Marina Lee Abdullah, said he would not be cowed into silence, and urged the government to abandon its use of the Internal Security Act (ISA) which allows for detention without trial.
“He is not giving up. He is not a threat to security. If he has done wrong, charge him in court. Do not detain him under the ISA,” she told reporters.
“What’s wrong in exposing leaders who indulge in corruption? Are we supposed to remain silent?” she said.
About three dozen supporters gathered outside the court, wearing T-shirts with slogans such as “I am with RPK,” “Free RPK,” and “No to ISA.”
The ISA, which human rights groups have pushed to have abolished, allows for renewable two-year periods of detention without trial and is normally used against terrorism suspects.
If convicted of sedition, Raja Petra faces a three-year jail term.
The hearing will continue at least until the end of the week and the court will then decide whether the case goes to trial.
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