A high-profile anti-government blogger has been jailed for up to two years in Malaysia, his lawyer said today.
Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin, who was arrested two weeks ago, was last night sentenced under Malaysia's draconian security laws.
The beleaguered government's long-time critic was taken today to a high-security prison where he could be held indefinitely without trial as the detention order, signed by the home minister, Syed Hamid Albar, can be renewed. Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin, a prominent Malaysian blogger, outside court in Kuala Lumpur. Photographer: Vincent Thian/AP
"This is definitely a big blow to the idea of civil liberties, especially at a time when everyone is asking for greater rights," said his lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar. "I don't think the government did itself any favour in attempting to regain popular confidence."Raja Petra, 57, is accused of insulting Islam and threatening national security by inciting racial tensions in the ethnically mixed country on his popular blog and website, Malaysia Today.
The site was blocked several times when Raja Petra was questioned by police and charged with sedition over material that appeared on his blog over the past few months.
In one article Raja Petra implied that a senior government minister was linked to the murder of a Mongolian model, Altantuya Shaariibuu. The ongoing trial of her alleged killers has kept Malaysia spellbound.
Raja Petra also said that the evidence against the opposition leader, Anwar Ibrahim, who will appear in court again tomorrow accused of sodomy, was fabricated. He refused to reveal his sources when he appeared before the high court last month.
To the fury of civil rights campaigners and lawyers he was detained on September 16 along with a journalist and an opposition MP, though the others were subsequently released.
Raja Petra is being held at the Kamunting detention centre, in the central state of Perak, which hosts about 60 other internal security law detainees, most of them suspected Islamist extremists.
Observers believe the home minister may have signed the order to prevent intervention by Raja Petra's supporters in the courts to secure his release.