Free detainees held with no charges, bail

Raja Petra Kamaruddin, blogger

Raja Petra Kamaruddin, blogger

It could happen to you. If you lived in Malaysia. There’s a petition. from citizens and friends of Malaysia in the international community:

We, citizens and friends of Malaysia from the international community, call upon Dato’ Seri Abdullah bin Haji Ahmad Badawi, Prime Minister of Malaysia, to act immediately to set free Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Teresa Kok who are presently being held in detention without the right of due process under the Internal Security Act (ISA). We also call for the release of the HINDRAF Five and others presently imprisoned under the ISA.

The two latest detainees – together with Tan Hoon Cheng, a newspaper reporter who was subsequently released following widespread local outrage and protests – were arrested on September 12th under the draconian ISA which permits the police to detain a person for a maximum of 60 days for investigations. Based on the outcome of the investigations, a person can be detained for two years without trial. The two-year term can be renewed indefinitely. The use of such legislation – a legacy of British colonial rule – violates the basic rights of detainees to due process and fair rule of law. [Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?]

We are of the opinion that there is no basis whatsoever to justify the detention of these individuals, despite the manner in which some in the government-controlled mainstream media may have painted them as threats instead of objectively reporting the facts. Raja Petra Kamaruddin is alleged to be a threat to security, peace and public order as a result of posting in his widely followed blogsite – http://www.Malaysia-Today – various articles deemed as seditious and belittling Islam. In his defence, it should be noted that various Islamic political parties and organizations (including the Board of Directors, Muslim Professionals Forum in their Press Release on 13 September) as well as numerous Muslim leaders have publicly refuted the Government’s view that the writings of Raja Petra are in any way a threat to the nation or to Islam; and they have called for his release. Further proof that this allegation is unfounded can also be found in the decision of the Malaysian Cabinet on 12 September ordering the authorities responsible for Internet policing in the country to unblock public access to Raja Petra’s website. The website currently is still unblocked and the so-called seditious and anti-national contents are publicly accessible, although Raja Petra is in detention. Targeting an internet blogger who holds views that differ from the Government is unacceptable in any system of democracy.

Teresa Kok’s arrest under the ISA has been justified by the authorities as stemming from her involvement in activities which can cause tension and conflict among races and religions. This allegation appears to be based on a claim by the former Selangor Menteri Besar, Dr. Khir Toyo, that she organized a petition presented to mosque officials to lower the volume of the azan (call to prayer). Teresa Kok has categorically denied organizing any such petition. Abdul Rahman Nasir, head of the Masjid Kinrara committee (the mosque in question) and Dr Siti Mariah, Member of Parliament for Kota Raja where the mosque is situated, have also denied that Teresa Kok was involved in any such happening. The unjustified arrest of a respected member of parliament and state assemblywoman is unacceptable.

We are encouraged that various leaders of the Barisan Nasional (BN) coalition parties have recently spoken out against the use of the ISA. We wish to express our deep respect for the de facto Law Minister, Zaid Ibrahim, who has resigned in protest against the Government’s use of the ISA on the three individuals. We agree with his view that “there [are] ample punitive laws to act against lawbreakers without having to invoke the ISA. [The law] should only be used on armed terrorists or those out to topple the government by force,”

We urge the Prime Minister to take note that the continued detention of Raja Petra Kamaruddin and Teresa Kok will only strengthen the view of Malaysians and many friends of Malaysia around the world that the Government is rapidly losing control over the political situation and, as a result, is embarking on desperate authoritarian measures. These measures can only further undermine political stability and confidence in the legitimacy of BN rule. They will also undoubtedly contribute to the increasing capital flight and worsen the growing socio-economic turmoil.

The arrests of Teresa Kok and Raja Petra Kamaruddin and their detention under the ISA are not serving Malaysia’s national interests. Both detainees – as well as the HINDRAF Five and other political detainees – should be released immediately and unconditionally.

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