Malaysia: Blogger's habeas corpus bid thwarted

Just on the day of blogger Raja Petra Kamaruddin's habeas corpus, a detention order was issued for him to be held under s. 8(1) of the Internal Security Act (ISA). Malaysia's Minister of Home Affairs, Syed Hamid Albar, was reported to have admitted to signing the detention order the night before the habeas corpus hearing.


Raja Petra, or RPK as he is better known, was detained on the 12th of September, along with a journalist from a mainstream newspaper and an opposition member of Parliament. The latter two has since been released, but RPK's fate seems less than encouraging. Initially, RPK appeared to have been detained under s. 73(1) of the ISA, which allows for the detention of an individual without trial for up to 60 days.

Although this provision for his two-year detention period under the ISA can be renewed indefinitely, Home Minister Syed Hamid was reported to have said that after the first three months, the authorities would review Raja Petra’s attitude while in detention. “Then the second review will be after six months, and we’ll see whether he can be released or not,” Syed Hamd was reported to have said.

According to RPK's legal team, the Home Minister's decision was linked to RPK's habeas corpus hearing, which might have secured his release. A writ of habeas corpus orders the authorities to produce detainees before a judge to determine whether the detainer has the right to hold them without trial.

It was reported that senior federal counsel, Abdul Wahab Mohamad,  had argued at the hearing that the new detention order had rendered the habeas corpus hearing academic, as the provision under which RPK is now detained overrides s, 73(1) of the ISA.

Civil society group, the Abolish ISA Movement (GMI), condemned the new detention order and concurred with RPK's legal team. GMI chairman, Syed Ibrahim Syed Noh, was reported to have stated,

“We believe the invoking of section 8 of the ISA for a two-year detention period subsequent to eight days of detention [from a maximum of 60 days under Section 73(1)] is to avert from the habeas corpus hearing of Raja Petra scheduled today,…This is an old tactic used in many cases before so that the habeas corpus will be deemed as academic since the detainee has been detained under a different section of the law.”

RPK himself expressed fears of an extended detention, whether with or without trial, in a blog post he managed to put up, even while in detention on the 19th September.

While there has been generally outrage on RPK's 2-year detention, a leading mainstream newspaper stated in its editorial:

His [RPK's] fate should be sobering to all such prospective rabble-rousers; they should remember that rabbles are inherently fickle. Raja Petra's attempt to rustle up hundreds of thousands of signatures in protest of his detention has been a conspicuous failure, as the opportunistic malcontents and anonymous cowards who constitute much of his constituency turn whistling elsewhere for their entertainment.

Malaysian author, blogger and social commentator, M.Bakri Musa, was reported to have said, “Incarcerating Raja Petra and others without affording them their due process is the height of injustice; and to do it during Ramadan is both cruel and vindictive. It is also an affront to our religious sensibility; the very act desecrates our holy month,”

To sign the petition to free RPK, click here.

Post script: it has been reported that RPK will undergo Islamic religious rehabilitation. The Islamic Development Department (Jakim) director-general, Datuk Wan Mohamad Sheikh Abdul Aziz, said the programme was to enable the speedier releases of Muslim detainees. Jakim is said to be working with the police in the implementation of the programme.



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