A Malaysian high court has ordered the release of blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin, on the grounds that his arrest, under the Internal Security Act (ISA), was unconstitutional.
An online social commentator and the editor of news blog Malaysia Today, Raja Petra was arrested on 12 September for threatening national security and potentially “causing tension among the country’s multi-racial and multi-religious society”.
Articles published online by Raja Petra were deemed insulting to Muslims and to the Prophet Muhammad and were thought defamatory of Malaysia’s leaders. The articles in question were ‘Malays, the Enemy of Islam’, ‘Let’s send the Altantuya murderers to hell’, ‘I promise to be a good, non-hypocritical Muslim’ and ‘Not all Arabs are descendents of the Prophet’.
Speaking to reporters about his release, Raja Petra said, “I’m really glad it’s over. I’m really tired. The judge’s decision proves there is no justification for my detention. We have to fight all-out and get the ISA abolished.”
Judge Syed Ahmad Helmy, of the high court in the state of Selangor, ruled that the Malaysian Home Minister Syed Hamid Albar had acted beyond his powers in having Raja Petra arrested.
The Malaysian government continues to use or threatens to use the ISA against people whom they accuse of being threats to national security, including government critics and those allegedly involved in “terrorist-linked” activities.
The ISA allows the police to arrest individuals they believe have acted, or are “about to” or “likely to” act in a way that would threaten Malaysian security, “essential services” or “economic life” (Article 73 (1)b).
After an initial 60-day detention for “investigation”, the ISA allows for detention without trial for up to two years renewable indefinitely, without the detainee being charged with a crime or tried in a court of law. More than 60 other people are still detained under the ISA without charge or trial.
“Amnesty International welcomes Raja Petra’s release “, said Donna Guest, Amnesty International’s Asia-Pacific Deputy Director. “We call on the government to stop using this law to control dissent.”