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Raja Petra and Syed Akbar Charged

Police slapped sedition charges on a blogger and an author, setting the stage for sensational trials later in the year.

The two men are Malaysia Today webmaster Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin and businessman and writer Syed Akbar Ali who had allegedly posted seditious remarks on the former’s website. Both pleaded not guilty.

Raja Petra Raja KamarudinRaja Petra was charged in a sessions court here under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 with publishing a seditious article titled “Let’s Send the Altantuya Murderers to Hell” in his blog on April 25. He allegedly committed the offence in his house, No. 5, Jalan BRP 5/5, Bukit Rahman Putra, Sungai Buloh.

The 58-year-old charismatic blogger caused a stir when he refused to take up judge Nurmala Salim’s bail offer of RM5,000, choosing instead to go to Sungai Buloh prison, until the trial fixed for Oct 6-10.

If found guilty, Raja Petra can be jailed a maximum of three years and/or face a fine of up to RM5,000.

Raja Petra was represented by a six lawyers – Bukit Gelugor MP Karpal Singh, K. Balaguru, PKR’s Selayang MP William Leong, J. Chandra, DAP’s Segambut MP Lim Lip Eng and Jeswinderjit Singh.

His prosecution was a media event at the court, with blogger friends and Pakatan Rakyat politicians supporting him. Among those who turned up were Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) president Datin Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, Ipoh Timur MP Lim Kit Siang and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.

Raja Petra had hours earlier turned up at the Duta Court Complex, where he was told to be by the police. However, after waiting for more than an hour, he received a call on his handphone from the police telling him to go to the PJ sessions court instead.

Raja Petra was vocal in condemning the sedition charge, saying that there was nothing to be worried about.

“I have been asked if this sedition charge is part of a war on bloggers. We bloggers declared war on the government four years ago. So it is not the government who has declared war on us. We want to change the government,” said Raja Petra, who added that he was expecting to be charged.

He was detained under the Internal Security Act in 2001, and released the same year.

His departure to Sungai Buloh prison was met with bloggers shouting “Makkal Sathi”, “Reformasi” and “Suara Petra, Suara Malaysia”.

Raja Petra’s website issued a call for donation of RM1 per person to his legal aid fund. At 6.45pm, RM24,500 had been credited to his CIMB bank account, and the fund had collected an additional US$3,283.61 through a Paypal account. It has been closed since.

Meanwhile, Syed Akbar was charged in a Kuala Lumpur sessions court with publishing seditious remarks in the comment section of an article in the Malaysia Today website.

He allegedly committed the offence in the premises of Zeenath Begum Jewellers Sdn Bhd, No. 2007, Jalan Masjid India, here at 2.59pm on June 5, 2007.

The comment with the heading “It is easy to impress the Malays” was made on an article titled “Malaysia’s Organised Crime Syndicate: All Roads Lead to Putrajaya” published by blogger Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin who maintains the website.

The 48-year-old father of two was charged under the same section.

Syed Akbar, a former banker who now runs a business with his wife on Jalan Masjid India, was represented by counsel Ashok Kandiah, Haris Ibrahim and Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Bernama reported.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Ishak Yusof, assisted by Hanafiah Zakaria, recommended to the court for him to be allowed bail of RM5,000 but Ashok pleaded for a lower amount.

Judge S. M. Komathy Suppiah set bail at RM3,000 with one surety and fixed June 10 to hear submissions by both parties on a preliminary objection raised by the defence who claimed that the charge was groundless at the start of the proceedings.

Syed Akhbar’s wife posted the bail.

In the earlier report, Blogger Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin was celebrating – by smoking too much – a day before the Government charged him with sedition.

“I have been celebrating as finally the Government is charging me,” he said.

Asked if he had slept well, he laughed and said he had a bad cough due to too much smoking.

He said his defence team would prove there was no case against him and that it was a case of “political persecution”.

“They lost in the election because of the Internet war. Malaysia Today was one of the ‘culprits’,” said Raja Petra who turned up in the Jalan Duta court complex here at 9.06am.

Earlier, a large crowd comprising bloggers, MPs, lawyers and well-wishers gathered at the court lobby in Jalan Duta.

At about 10.30am, Raja Petra said he received a call from a policeman telling him to go to the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court.

He left the Jalan Duta complex five minutes later in a friend’s car.

After the court proceedings ended, his lead counsel K. Balaguru said his client did not have money to post the RM5,000 bail while Raja Petra’s wife, Marina Lee Abdullah, said her husband wanted his online readers to contribute RM1 each for his bail.

“I tried to persuade him not to stay in the lock-up but he says that it is his stand. He is very stubborn,” added Marina.

His CIMB account number was posted on his website from morning. By 4pm, readers had contributed RM24,500 and US$3,283.61 (RM10,441.87). The donation campaign was called off at 5.30pm and the website stated that excess funds would be donated to a charitable home of Raja Petra’s choice.

Meanwhile, the Bar Council Malaysia called on the authorities to withdraw the charge against Raja Petra.

“The Sedition Act is a draconian, archaic and repressive legislation that has long outlived any perceived utility it might ever have had,” it said in a press release.

Aliran Press Statement : Sedition charge on blogger Raja Petra raises more questions

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  1. […] Raja Petra and Syed Akbar Charged Police slapped sedition charges on a blogger and an author, setting the stage for sensational trials later in the year. The two men are Malaysia Today webmaster Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin and businessman and writer Syed Akbar Ali who had … […]

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