Malaysia: Socialist leader released on court orders after arrest for 'sedition'

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By Peter Boyle

February 27, 2015 -- Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- On February 19, 15 policemen descended on the home of Socialist Party of Malaysia (PSM) general secretary S. Arutchelvan (Arul) in Kajang, a suburban satellite of the capital city Kuala Lumpur.

They detained him under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act for a statement he issued by the PSM on February 10 after opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction on a sodomy charge.

Demonstrations for his release began immediately outside the police station where he was held and late in the evening on February 20 he was released on the orders of a magistrate. The PSM and others are campaigning for the repeal of the colonial-era Sedition Act and for the release of Anwar Ibrahim.

Arul gave Green Left Weekly and Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal this interview via email on February 26.

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What is your legal situation now? Are you charged with sedition or only still being investigated?

I am not charged yet. The police want two weeks to process the information on my mobile phone, modem and laptop -- which they confiscated -- before they decide. It will again be a political decision, I believe.

Meanwhile PSM may sue the Inspector-General of Police (IGP) for my illegal detention. The lawyers are ready but are awaiting the go ahead from the PSM leadership.

How do you explain your dramatic arrest and then release?

1. To punish me by detaining me over a holiday period, when it is also harder to mobilise support.

2. To divert from Sirul issue [Sirul is a former member of the prime minister's personal bodyguard currently detained on immigration charges in Australia while sentenced to death by a Malaysian court in abstentia for the murder of Altantuya, a Mongolian model and translator in murky circumstances] because only the day before I was arrested he said would tell all about who ordered him to kill Altantuya.. The police told me that they got a sudden order to arrest me when they were planning my arrest a week after the Chinese New Year holidays.

3. To create general fear and intimidation against people from talking about and issuing statements on the Anwar verdict.

What has been the fate of the others threatened with sedition over criticisms of the conviction of Anwar Ibrahim?

So far nobody threatened by the IGP has actually been charged with sedition. Most have been remanded and released. I won my remand in court but activist Adam Adli and opposition Justice Party (PKR) youth leader Nik Nazmi didn't apply for remand but the police released them within 24 hours. The police sought to detain me on remand for four days but failed in court. The police have since set up a new unit called "D5" specifically to nab people on sedition.