The High Court today ordered that Raja Petra Kamarudin, editor of the popular news portal Malaysia Today, be released from detention after ruling that his arrest for allegedly causing racial tensions was unlawful.
High Court Justice Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad ruled that the Home Minister acted outside his powers in having Raja Petra arrested on Sept 12, said the blogger’s lawyer Malik Imtiaz Sarwar.
He quoted the judge as saying the grounds given for Raja Petra's detention were insufficient and that his arrest under the Internal Security Act was unlawful.
The ISA allows the government to detain anyone for an initial two-year period without charges, and to extend the detention indefinitely.
Raja Petra, who was accused of threatening public security and causing racial tension by publishing writings that ridiculed Islam, will be taken to court later today to be formally set free.
Malik said the order was a "historic ruling”.
It's not the first time that a court has ordered the release of ISA detainees, and the ruling also does not prevent the government from re-arresting him under the ISA. The government can also appeal the ruling.
Raja Petra, 58, has increasingly infuriated authorities by publishing numerous claims about alleged wrongdoing by government leaders on his highly popular site, Malaysia Today. The government has denounced most of Raja Petra's allegations as lies.
He is also on trial in a separate case, having been accused of sedition by implying that Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak was involved in the murder of a Mongolian woman. Raja Petra denies the allegation. If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail.
The detention came at a time when the government's popularity hit at an all-time low and is riven with factional fighting and faces the threat of being ousted by the opposition.
The ISA is a holdover from British colonial days, when it was used against communist insurgents. Independent Malaysia's post-colonial government has kept it in the statute books and has used it sparingly against political dissidents, ignoring calls from opposition groups and others to disband the law.
Raja Petra's arrest triggered widespread protests by civil society groups, lawyers and other online commentators.
Some of Malaysia's most popular blogs offer strong anti-government commentaries and present themselves as a substitute for mainstream media, which are controlled by political parties or closely linked to them. The government estimates there are more than 700 Malaysians who blog on social and political issues.
Meanwhile, Raja Petra’s wife, Mable or Marina Lee, described as “fantastic” the High Court decision to free her husband from detention under the Internal Security Act.
“I don't know what to say...it is a fantastic breakthrough that happened today,” she told reporters after the decision.
Marina, who wore a red T-shirt with the words “I Am With RPK”, was elated that the decision was what she had expected. — Agencies