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Asia

Malaysian cartoonist 'Zunar' arrested at literary festival, charged with sedition - again

A Malaysian cartoonist known for lampooning the country's prime minister has been arrested and charged with sedition. Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, who draws under the name Zunar, was arrested at a literary festival.

Malaysian political cartoonist "Zunar" was arrested on Saturday under the country's tough Sedition Act for cartoons that allegedly insulted Prime Minister Najib Razak. The 54-year-old would be remanded in custody for at least 24 hours to facilitate investigations, state news agency Bernama reported. Apart from being charged under the Sedition Act, the cartoonist will also be probed under the penal code for intentionally humiliating a person, Bernama reported.

The satirist was arrested by police at the George Town Literary Festival held in Penang state. Festival organizers condemned the arrest. "The Festival condemns this act of repression which is contrary to the spirit of free speech and expression, a central premise of the festival," Bernice Chauly, the literary festival's director said.

Dozens of government critics, including opposition politicians, academics, activists, and journalists, have been charged under Malaysia's sedition laws which Zunar has lampooned in his cartoons. "Levels of repression are reaching dangerous levels in Malaysia," said Michael Vatikiotis, a writer at the festival. "The fact that Zunar's arrest happened at the George Town Literary Festival, with dozens of international writers and artists, only underscores the government's disregard for freedom of expression."

'Zunar' charged under Sedition Act several times

 

Malaysia Karikaturist Zulkiflee Anwar Haque Zunar (Getty Images/AFP/M. Rasfan)

Malaysian cartoonist Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque, known as "Zunar," has been charged under the country's controversial Sedition Act at least nine other times

The artist is no stranger to the law, having been arrested and hauled to court several times before. At least nine previous charges under the Sedition Act are still pending. His office has been raided by police and a ban on his political cartoon books is in force.

He often mocks Prime Minister Najib Razak and the widely alleged luxurious lifestyle of his wife. The premier faces allegations that billions of dollars were plundered from sovereign fund 1MDB, his pet investment project. That has made him a target for mass protests by yellow-clad demonstrators seeking his ouster. A day before Zunar's arrest, an appeals court ruled that a section of the Sedition Act which removes the requirement for the prosecution to prove intent was unconstitutional.

jar/jlw (AFP, Reuters)