06 October, 2008

Raja Petra sedition trial starts

One of Malaysia's most prominent bloggers and a high-profile critic of the government has gone on trial for sedition.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, who is already being held under Malaysia's Internal Security Act (ISA), could be sentenced to three years in jail if he is convicted.

The two cases against Raja Petra, who runs the popular Malaysia Today news site on his blog, have provoked an outcry against the government, with detractors accusing it of misusing the judiciary to crack down on critics and suppress freedom of speech.

"They are penalising him twice ... It's double jeopardy. But his spirits are up," said Raja Petra's wife, Marina, at a district court where the frail-looking activist, wearing flip-flops and sporting stubble, was brought in handcuffs in a police van for the trial.

The sedition charge stems from an April 25 article titled "Let's send the Altantuya murderers to hell" that Raja Petra posted on his website. It allegedly implied that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak and his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, were involved in the 2006 killing in Malaysia of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old Mongolian interpreter. Both have denied involvement.

Raja Petra in PJ to face sedition charge

Internal Security Act detainee Raja Petra Kamarudin was bought to the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court this morning to face a sedition trial.

The popular blogger arrived at the court in an unmarked police vehicle at about 8.30am. He was wearing a blue T-shirt with a white collar and a pair of blue jeans.

Raja Petra appeared thinner, with long hair and a beard. He also looked tired.

About 60 of his supporters were present in the court compound. Some wore T-shirts calling for his release.

Also seen were some opposition leaders, led by DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang and Selangor exco member Ronnie Liu.

Raja Petra's wife Marina Lee Abdullah was also present.

The trial started with the first witness Harme Mohamed, an information technology expert from the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission, informing the court about websites and how these are operated.

The sedition trial is fixed for a week over Raja Petra's article entitled 'Let's send the Altantuya murderers to hell' which he posted on Malaysia Today on April 25. He was charged on May 6.

Justice Rozina Ayob is presiding over the case.

Raja Petra was served with a two-year detention order on Sept 22 and is being held at the Kamunting detention camp in Perak.

He appeared in good spirits during a break in the trial this morning, smiling and joking with his family and friends. However he was not interested in talking to reporters.

- Malaysiakini

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