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(UPDATE) Malaysian blogger starts hunger strike in jail


Agence France-Presse
First Posted 17:03:00 05/07/2008

Filed Under: Media, Human Rights, Internet

KUALA LUMPUR--A Malaysian blogger in jail after writing an article linking a top leader to the gruesome killing of a Mongolian woman has begun a hunger strike, his wife said Wednesday.

Raja Petra Kamaruddin, founder and editor of the popular Malaysia Today site, has been charged with sedition for implicating Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife in the October 2006 murder.

He refused to post bail set at 5,000 ringgit ($1,600), opting instead to be locked up until his trial begins on October 6.

"He is on a hunger strike. It is a protest. He is not guilty and he is being punished," his distraught wife, Marina Lee Abdullah told AFP.

"The last time he did this, his liver was damaged. I don't think he is going to last that long."

Raja Petra has also refused visits by family members.

"I don't blame him but of course he's my husband and... if he doesn't want to meet even me, this means it is bad news," she said.

Pictures of the 57-year-old blogger looking defiant while behind bars at the court prison were this week splashed on the front pages of local papers.

"I am not going to post bail. I don't have the money," he told reporters in the packed courtroom on Tuesday.

If convicted, he faces a three-year jail term or a fine of up to 5,000 ringgit.

Blogger Ahirudin Attan, president of the National Alliance of Bloggers, said the "high-handed" way in which Raja Petra was treated by authorities, threatened freedom of speech on the Internet.

"Parties mentioned in his article should exercise their right to reply and debate with him over the issues instead of quickly resorting to sedition," he added.

Gayathry Venkiteswaran from Malaysia's Center for Independent Journalism said: "It is a systematic target against an individual who has risked his neck to expose issues of public interest.

The government's harshest critic, former premier Mahathir Mohamad -- who has recently taken up blogging -- has also denounced the charge against Raja Petra.

The high-profile case involving the killing of the 28-year-old Mongolian woman, Altantuya Shaariibuu, whose body was blown up with explosives, has grabbed headlines across the country since the murder trial began in June last year.

Najib, who is expected to take over from Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi as the country's next premier, has denied any involvement in her death.

Two police officers from an elite force, whose duties included guarding the prime minister and Najib, were charged with the killing.

Analyst Abdul Razak Baginda, who has links with Najib and top government leaders has been charged with abetting the killing.

Malaysia's Sedition Act, a carryover from British colonial times, broadly criminalizes activities with "seditious tendencies," including those that express anti-government sentiments.



Copyright 2014 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.



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