Malaysian opposition leader Karpal Singh convicted of sedition for ‘insult’
Agence France-Presse in Kuala Lumpur
A Malaysian court found a veteran opposition leader guilty of sedition yesterday in the latest use of a law the government had pledged to abolish in the run-up to elections last year.
Democratic Action Party chairman Karpal Singh slammed the Sedition Act as a "relic", and called the case against him unfair. "It's political intimidation," said Singh, 73.
The outspoken, wheelchair-bound parliamentarian was found guilty of insulting one of the country's nine state sultans during a tussle over political control of Perak state in 2009.
He faces up to three years in prison, with sentencing set for March 7. The conviction, against which Singh plans to appeal, sparked further condemnation of the government's use of the decades-old Sedition Act.
Prime Minister Najib Razak had pledged to abolish the act in 2012 as part of reform promises made to halt a slide in support for his long-ruling coalition.
But after retaining power with a weak showing in 2013 polls, Najib is believed to be under pressure from disgruntled conservatives in his ruling party to backtrack on reform.
Najib's office said the government "remains committed" to replacing the law, but gave no time frame. "Until new legislation is in place, existing cases must be tried under existing laws," it said in a statement. "This prosecution is a matter for the courts."
Other government critics are facing sedition charges brought since Najib's reform pledge.