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Malaysian blogger 'detained' for two years

Dubious charge of insulting Islam

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A Malaysian blogger has been detained without trial for two years on charges of "insulting Islam and inciting racial tensions", the BBC reports.

Raja Petra Kamarudin was cuffed on 12 September after he unwisely used a piece in the Malaysia Today website.to accuse Malaysia's deputy prime minister, Najib Razak, of involvement in the 2007 murder of a Mongolian woman.

The country's home minister ordered him to be sent to a detention centre in the state of Perak under the Internal Security Act (ISA), which allows him to be held for 24 months, although the sentence can be renewed indefinitely. The detention order can be overturned only by the minister, not a judge, the BBC notes.

Raja Petra's lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, decried the order as "definitely a big blow to the idea of civil liberties, especially in a climate when everybody is asking for greater rights". The detainee's wife, Marina Lee Abdullah, told AFP: "This is the worst news I can receive, but we will keep fighting for his release."

The BBC describes Raja Petra as "a thorn in the side of the Malaysian government, using his blog to become one of its most vociferous critics". He's one of three "dissidents" arrested in what the opposition called "a sign of panic by the embattled administration of Abdullah Badawi". The trio of detainees is made up by blogger Syed Azidi Syed Aziz and Chinese-language journalist Tan Hoon Cheng.

Abdullah's government has "suffered an unprecedented drop in support in the general election earlier this year and he has faced calls to resign from both opposition and some members of his own party". Indeed, cabinet member Zaid Ibrahim last week resigned in protest at the government's use of the ISA, insisting it should "only be used on armed terrorists or those out to topple the government by force".

Other victims of the ISA include opposition MP Teresa Kok who was "detained for one week under the act after she was accused of campaigning for a mosque to lower the volume of its call to prayer".

Shortly before his arrest, Raja Petra told the BBC he "wasn't afraid of detention", but wanted "to be available to help in the dissemination of information that is going to be greatly required". There's a pre-arrest audio interview with the errant blogger here. ®

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