Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Raja Petra detained for 2 years

Raja Petra detained for 2 years

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 23 — A prominent political blogger was jailed for two years under a strict security law that can keep him in prison indefinitely, a lawyer said today.

Online commentator Raja Petra Kamarudin, known for his anti-government views, was already in police custody and was served a detention order last night, said his lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.

Another of his lawyers, J. Chandra, confirmed that Raja Petra has been sent to Kamunting under Section 8(1) of the ISA which states that "if the Minister is satisfied that the detention of any person is necessary with a view to preventing him from acting in any manner prejudicial to the security of Malaysia or any part thereof or to the maintenance of essential services therein or the economic life thereof, he may make an order (hereinafter referred to as a detention order) directing that the person be detained for any period not exceeding two years."

The order was signed by Home Minister Datuk Syed Hamid Albar, who has said Raja Petra's writings pose a threat to national security by creating racial tension.

Raja Petra’s wife Marina Lee Abdullah said today: "The police informed me that my husband has been sent to Kamunting this morning and that he will remain there for two years with no trial. This is the worst news I can receive but we will keep fighting for his release."

"This is dirty foul play by the government as they know that we are in the process of fighting for his release in the court but I was expecting this," she said. However, it is understood that the authorities will allow Marina access to Raja Petra for 45 minutes tomorrow. Marina said: "I'm seeing Pete tomorrow."

Raja Petra's lawyers were pushing for his release in a habeas corpus hearing today but Marina said the detention order had upset their plans. The habeas corpus hearing, meanwhile, has been postponed to Oct 28 after preliminary objections from the DPP against the defence application that with the new order under Section 8 of the ISA served on Raja Petra today, it was no longer relevant to rely on the earlier application filed under Section 73 (1).

Chandra said the defence would be filing a fresh application against the Section 8 order.

Raja Petra has increasingly infuriated authorities by publishing numerous claims about alleged wrongdoings by government leaders on his popular site, Malaysia-Today, which serves as his blog as well as a news portal. The government has denounced most of Raja Petra's allegations as lies.

Raja Petra was arrested on Sept 12 under the Internal Security Act, which allows an initial detention of two months for investigation, followed by a two-year jail period that can be renewed indefinitely.

He will be held at the Kamunting Detention Centre in Perak. The centre houses detainees held under the security law, most of whom are suspected Islamic extremists.

Raja Petra's arrest triggered widespread protests by civil society groups, lawyers and other online commentators. Along with Raja Petra, authorities also arrested an opposition lawmaker and a journalist on Sept 12, but they were released subsequently.

The ISA is a holdover from British colonial days, when it was used against communist insurgents. Independent Malaysia's post-colonial government has kept it in the statute books and has used it sparingly against political dissidents, ignoring calls from opposition groups and others to disband the law.

In RANTAU PANJANG, Home Minister Datuk Seri Syed Hamid Albar confirmed he had signed the detention order as he was satisfied with the reasons given.

"The two-year detention is due to Raja Petra's articles that ridiculed Islam and which could arouse anger among Muslims.

"The police recommended the detention and, after going through the papers, we are satisfied that there are strong grounds for it," he told reporters after a visit to the Malaysia-Thai border.

Syed Hamid, however, said there would be a review after three months.

"We will see Raja Petra's attitude in detention and decide whether he can be released or not. A second review would be after six months," he said. — Agencies

No comments: