Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom pleaded not guilty to charges under the Sedition Act today.
Azmi, an associate professor, posted his RM5,000 bail and the case has been fixed for mention on Oct 3.
He was charged under Section 4 (1)(b) of the Sedition Act, with an alternative charge under Section 4 (1)(c) of the same Act, for a seditious remark made on Aug 15.
The charge sheet states that Azmi published the seditious remark at the Crime Investigation Department of the Kuala Lumpur police headquarters.
He is alleged to have written the seditious remarks in an article titled "Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told", published by the Malay Mail online portal.
An attachment to the charge sheet highlight two sentences in the article.
The sentences are : “You don’t want a repeat of that, where a secret meeting took place.” and “I think what happened in Perak was legally wrong. The best thing to do is do it as legally and transparently as possible.”
If convicted, Azmi faces either a maximum fine of RM5,000 or three years in prison, or both.
At a press conference later, Azmi said he was "shocked" to learn that he was being charged with sedition for comments he made on the Perak crisis of 2009.
'My statements based on democratic principles'
Azmi said his statements were made in his capacity as a law lecturer.
"My statements were based on established case laws and democratic principles. They were given in my capacity as a law lecturer of 24 years standing."
Azmi also condemned the draconian law and described the charge against him as "a blow to academic freedom and the freedom of expression".
His lawyer Gobind Singh Deo said they will file to strike off the charge and challenge the constitutionality of the Sedition Act.
Gobind further urged Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak, who promised to repel the Sedition Act, to keep his word.
"What we are seeing now is completely opposite what the prime minister said and the Act is being used more readily and frequently today than it was before.
"This is not in line or consistent with the stand taken by the PM. The law is outdated and needs to be repealed."
"The attorney-general should take heed of the fact that this is a law that has been criticised worldwide. People say it is outdated and not applicable to today's circumstances, age and time," Gobind said
He also said the charges against Azmi may stifle academic freedom, especially on constitutional matters.
About 100 people showed up in court in support of the associate professor, among them prominent activists Marina Mahathir and Zainah Anwar, Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar and a group of Universiti Malaya students.
Some UM students held up placards that read "Free Azmi";"We are all Azmi Sharom"; and "Free the university".