Friday, 7 November 2008

Court frees Malaysian blogger

A Malaysian court has ordered the release of a prominent government critic free from detention on grounds that his arrest under a colonial-era security law was unlawful, local media and his lawyer have said.

Raja Petra Kamarudin, a high-profile political blogger, was detained in September for allegedly stoking racial tensions by publishing articles that the government said insulted Islam, inflamed racial tensions and tarnished the country's leadership.

But the high court in the state of Selangor ruled on Friday that the Malaysian home minister had acted beyond his powers in having the blogger arrested under the Internal Security Act (ISA), Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, Raja Petra's lawyer, said.

He quoted Judge Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad as saying that the grounds given for Raja Petra's detention were insufficient and that his arrest under the ISA was unlawful.

"It's a historic ruling and definitely a wonderful step in terms of civil liberties in Malaysia," the lawyer said.

Some of Malaysia's most popular blogs offer stinging anti-government commentaries and present themselves as a substitute for mainstream media, which are controlled by political parties or closely linked to them.

According to government estimates, there are more than 700 Malaysians who blog on social and political issues.

[Pippa Wagstaff is currently on a blogging break]

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