KUALA LUMPUR: Amnesty International (AI) has called for charges against cartoonist Zunar, or Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, to be dropped. Zunar goes to trial under the Sedition Act on Friday on nine charges for a series of tweets which could sent him to jail potentially for decades.
“These charges against Zunar are politically motivated and must be dropped immediately,” said Josef Benedict, Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia Campaigns Director. “Zunar has for years highlighted government corruption and repression through his cartoons.”
“The government has been after him for years.”
The tweets related to the nine charges were critical of the government for having Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim jailed in February on sodomy charges.
Amnesty’s statement comes as the international rights NGO prepares for the annual Write for Rights event, the world’s biggest of its kind, from December 4 to 17. Zunar, one of the cases featured, will receive support from hundreds of thousands of AI campaigners who will take action online and through letters to demand that Malaysian authorities drop charges against him.
Zunar’s trial comes amidst a widening crackdown on freedom of expression by the authorities using the Sedition Act. Around 100 people have been arrested or charged under the Sedition Act since the beginning of 2015, a spike from last year’s known total of 29.
“The disturbing crackdown on freedom of expression using the Sedition Act shows no sign of abating,” said Benedict. “The Malaysian authorities must take their obligations to respect human rights seriously, instead of using archaic legislation to lock up and harass critics.”
~ Free Malaysia Today