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Friday, November 07, 2008

Malaysia judge frees blogger arrested under controversial security act
Lucas Tanglen at 12:20 PM ET

[JURIST] Malaysian High Court Justice Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad ordered the release of blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin on Friday, finding insufficient grounds for his arrest under the country's Internal Security Act (ISA) [text, PDF; HRW backgrounder], which allows for indefinite detentions. Raja Petra, the editor of anti-government website Malaysia Today [political blog], had been in a detention camp since September, when he was accused of causing ethnic tensions by writing articles that allegedly insulted Islam. Malaysian Bar [profession website] President Ambiga Sreenevasan praised the ruling [press release], saying:

At a time when public confidence in the independence of the judiciary has taken a beating from one judicial crisis to another, and at a time when promised judicial reforms have yet to take place, the decision of the learned high court judge in the habeas corpus application of Raja Petra Kamaruddin gives us hope that our judiciary has acted and will act with courage, integrity and independence when the liberty of an individual is threatened by the arbitrary use of power under the Internal Security Act 1960.
After his release, Raja Petra called for the abolition of the ISA. AP has more. The New York Times has additional coverage.

In June, Malaysian rights group Suaram cited the continued use of the ISA in saying that human rights conditions in the country had worsened [JURIST report] in the past year. In May, the Federal Court of Malaysia [official website] rejected an appeal [JURIST report] by five ethnic Indian protesters being detained by Malaysian authorities under the ISA. In January, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) [advocacy website, in French] called for Malaysia to lift the ISA [JURIST report], saying the law was being used to stifle peaceful dissent.

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