Malaysian blogger jailed under security law

September 23rd, 2008 - 6:45 pm ICT by IANS  

Kuala Lumpur, Sep 23 (DPA) Malaysia has jailed a popular anti-government internet blogger for two years under a draconian security law that can keep him detained indefinitely without a trial.Raja Petra Kamarudin, who is known for his sensational online articles targeting top government leaders, was served with an order Monday night that would see him detained for two years under the Internal Security Act (ISA), Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar told reporters Tuesday.

“The detention is due to Raja Petra’s articles that ridiculed Islam which could arouse anger among Muslims.

“The police had recommended his detention and after going through the papers, we are satisfied that there are strong grounds for him to be further detained for two years,” he said.

Raja Petra, who runs the popular Malaysia Today news website, was arrested Sep 12.

Syed Hamid, who had ordered his arrest, had said some of Raja Petra’s articles were deemed a threat to national security and offensive to Islam, the official religion of the country.

Raja Petra has in the past been accused by the government of spreading lies and false rumours in his articles.

He was charged with sedition in May for allegedly implying that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was involved in the gruesome murder of a Mongolian woman.

His detention sparked criticism from rights groups and the blogging community, who say the government’s move amounts to Internet censorship and an infringement of free speech.

But many of Raja Petra’s supporters have remained defiant, saying his detention would further serve to highlight the need for bloggers to speak up on issues they were not satisfied with in the government.

“His prolonged detention does little to reduce his influence in Malaysian politics,” said long-time blogger and lawyer Joshua Chin.

“In fact, it will only make him more iconic.

“Bloggers are not going to be afraid to speak up - at most, they will resort to blogging anonymously,” he said.

Under the ISA, the government can extend Raja Petra’ two-year detention period indefinitely.

Police also detained an opposition lawmaker and a journalist Sep 12, shortly after Raja Petra was arrested. The government has since released the two.

The ISA was originally drafted almost 60 years ago during British colonial rule to fight a communist insurgency.

Critics of the law claim it is being used to crack down on dissent and have repeatedly called for its abolition, but the government maintains it is needed as safeguard against terrorism and to ensure national security.

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