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Malaysia charges cartoonist for sedition over tweets critical of government

Rights groups said Malaysian authorities are exploiting sedition laws to shut down criticism of its abuse of power.

By
Elizabeth Shim
Anwar Ibrahim, an opposition leader jailed on charges of sodomy, was the focus of a Malaysian cartoonist's criticism of the ruling party. Ibrahim was sentenced to five years in jail after a Malaysian court overturned a previous sodomy acquittal in March. Photo by imagemaker/Shutterstock
Anwar Ibrahim, an opposition leader jailed on charges of sodomy, was the focus of a Malaysian cartoonist's criticism of the ruling party. Ibrahim was sentenced to five years in jail after a Malaysian court overturned a previous sodomy acquittal in March. Photo by imagemaker/Shutterstock

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia, April 3 (UPI) -- A Malaysian cartoonist known for his critical cartoons of Malaysia's ruling Barisan Nasional party was charged with sedition Friday.

Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, who goes by Zunar, faces nine charges for each tweet he sent regarding the jailing of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, the BBC reported.

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According to the Malay Mail Online, Ibrahim was sentenced to five years in jail after a Malaysian court overturned a previous sodomy acquittal in March.

Rights groups said Malaysian authorities are exploiting sedition laws to shut down criticism of its abuse of power. They said the Ibrahim case was less about sodomy charges and more about removing the opposition leader from a position that presented a threat to the ruling party.

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Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia.

Zunar said the Malaysian authorities have a vendetta about his work, and are using his criticism of the Malaysian judicial system on Twitter as a means of punishing him for his cartoons, Voice of America reported.

The ruling Barisan Nasional party has been in power since 1957, the year Malaysia gained independence from British colonial rule.

Past cartoons satirically accused the government of corruption, mismanagement and stifling of free speech.

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Sedition is punishable by up to three years in prison, but Zunar was told he faced multiple charges, including 43 years in jail, with bail set at $13,000.

Zunar said he would never be silent, because that is what the Malaysian authorities want.

Malaysia's current Prime Minister Najib Razak has increasingly used the Sedition Act to silence his opposition, at least since 2013, said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

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