Prosecution drops sedition cases against PSM’s Arul, lawyer Eric Paulsen

Ida Lim
Lawyer Eric Paulsen (second from left) and PSM's S. Arutchelvan (second from right) were today acquitted of sedition charges. — Picture by Ida Lim

KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 15 — The prosecution today withdrew its two separate sedition cases against Parti Sosialis Malaysia (PSM) politician S. Arutchelvan and human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen.

Deputy public prosecutor Norinna Bahadun informed the Sessions Court today that the prosecution wants to discontinue its case against the PSM central committee member better known as Arul.

“We confirm we are withdrawing. We do not wish to continue the prosecution towards the accused,” she told the court.

Arul was charged on November 23, 2015 with sedition over his February 10 statement calling the Federal Court’s decision to uphold Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s conviction in the latter’s second sodomy case a “political judgement”.

The charge, under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act, provides for a maximum fine of RM5,000 or a maximum jail term of three years, or both, for first-time offenders.

Arul had also previously claimed trial to an alternative charge under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act (CMA) 1998 for allegedly posting a statement on Facebook with the intention to injure the feelings of others.

The CMA offence is punishable with a maximum fine of RM50,000 or a maximum one-year jail term or both.

Sessions Court judge Edwin Paramjothy Michael Muniady then acquitted and discharged Arul of both charges.

Norinna also confirmed that the prosecution was withdrawing its charge against Paulsen, following which the judge also released him.

Paulsen was charged on February 5, 2015 under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act over a tweet accusing the Department of Islamic Development Malaysia (Jakim) of promoting extremism.

Lawyer New Sin Yew represented Arul, while lawyer Latheefa Koya represented Paulsen.

Paulsen later told reporters that there was no reason for the government to retain the colonial-era Sedition Act 1948.

“It is Malaysia Baharu, but the Sedition Act we all have is 1948, that is a pre-Merdeka, colonial law that was used against independence fighters in Malaya and Singapore, so there's no reason for this cruel law to be continued today,” he said.

He noted the ruling Pakatan Harapan coalition’s promise in its GE14 manifesto to abolish the law.

But he said that no investigations should be carried out now as it would go against government policy to scrap the law as promised, adding that all sedition cases in court should be dropped and said a Bill to repeal the Sedition Act should be tabled in Parliament.

Paulsen's lawyer Latheefa noted that there were still other pending sedition cases in court and urged the federal government to keep its promise of abolishing the Sedition Act.

“This is not going to end so fast, while we are definitely happy that there's progress, but it's not enough.

“So this is about freedom of expression and freedom of speech and we will continue. If we can speak out during BN's time, we don't see why we should stop now,” she said.

“I hope the government and people in power right now listens because I don't think people will wait for another 60 years this time around,” Paulsen added.

Arul thanked New who provided his services for free, noting that the lawyer had to forego his Chinese New Year reunion dinner when Arul was called in for investigations in February 2015.

Arul also urged for the Sedition Act to be abolished as promised and for a moratorium on investigations under the British-era law, telling reporters: “It needs to be repealed, no more investigations under the sedition law.”