Wednesday, March 12, 2014

International jurists body slams High Court decision on Karpal, says his right to give legal opinion

MARCH 11, 2014
Karpal Singh at the High Court today. He says he is standing by his statement that the Sultan of Perak is not above the law. – The Malaysian Insider pic, March 11, 2014.Karpal Singh at the High Court today. He says he is standing by his statement that the Sultan of Perak is not above the law. – The Malaysian Insider pic, March 11, 2014.The Geneva-based International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has come to the defence of prominent lawyer Karpal Singh, following the guilty verdict on him on a charge of sedition by the Hight Court, which today meted out a RM4,000 fine on him.
"The Malaysian government is brazenly utilising a draconian and outdated sedition law to restrict freedom of expression in the country by lawyers and public figures," said ICJ's International Legal Adviser on Southeast Asia, Emerlynne Gil.
The ruling was based on a statement by Karpal at a press conference on February 6, 2009, commenting on the Sultan of Perak, Sultan Azlan Shah's decision to remove the then Perak menteri besar Datuk Seri Mohamad Nizar Jamaluddin from office. Karpal had said the decision could be challenged in a court of law.
"A lawyer's right to freely and independently engage and express his views on the law fulfills an important aspect of his professional role," Gil added.
"Public discussion, including debates on the interpretation of laws, are an integral part of the nature of the legal process and a crucial step in the strengthening of a country's democracy and rule of law.
Putrajaya had on July 21, 2012 announced that it planned to repeal the Sedition Act, although critics said it was dragging its feet on abolishing the colonial-era law.
Although Karpal was fined RM4,000, he will remain Bukit Gelugor MP until he has exhausted his appeal in the Federal Court.
Under the Federal Constitution, an elected representative is disqualified from office if fined more than RM2,000 or jailed for a term exceeding one year.
His lead counsel, Gobind Singh Deo, said the fine was paid and a notice of appeal would be filed soon.
"He will remain an elected representative until the Federal Court makes a final decision on the appeal," Gobind told reporters after the High Court delivered the sentence.
Karpal has two more rights to appeal against the conviction and sentence in the Court of Appeal and Federal Court.
Meanwhile, lawyer Latheefa Koya said Karpal could also remain party chairman until his final appeal was determined, as the Societies Act had not imposed any immediate restriction upon conviction.
The wheelchair-bound veteran lawyer is the second top opposition leader to have been found guilty and sentenced in the past week, after opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim was sentenced to five years' jail last Friday on a charge of sodomy.
Meanwhile, a defiant Karpal said he stood by his statement in February 2009 that the Sultan was not above the law.
"I was doing my duty as an MP and lawyer that the Ruler can be taken to court," he told reporters after the sentencing by the High Court today.
He said while the prosecution was entitled to press for a deterrent sentence, the government must be prepared to answer the people in the court of public opinion.
Karpal was found guilty on February 21 by judge Datuk Paduka Azman Abdullah.
Karpal, who has been in politics since 1974, said opposition politicians risked prosecution when then spoke for the people.
"If you are afraid, then you cannot represent the people. The fight goes on," he said, adding that eliminating "one Karpal" would give birth to "100 more Karpals". - March 11, 2014
~ The Malaysian Insider

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