Court upholds Uthayakumar’s sedition conviction, jail term reduced

The Court of Appeal today upheld human rights activist P. Uthayakumar’s sedition conviction but reduced his jail sentence to 24 months.

BY V. ANBALAGAN, ASSISTANT NEWS EDITOR Published: 17 September 2014

The Court of Appeal today upheld human rights activist P. Uthayakumar’s sedition conviction but reduced his jail sentence to 24 months.

A three-man bench chaired by Datuk Aziah Ali said the court found no merit to disturb the conviction by the Sessions Court, which found Uthayakumar guilty of publishing seditious remarks  in a website seven years ago.

“However, the sentence of 30 months by the trial court is excessive and we vary it to 24 months,” she said in dismissing Uthayakumar’s appeal against conviction.

Uthayakumar, who has been in prison since June 5 last year, is expected to be freed on October 3, after one-third remission of his jail term.

Uthayakumar said this was the price he had to pay for his human rights struggle before he was whisked away prison wardens.

Uthayakumar, who is a lawyer, filed his notice of appeal on June 6, a day after the 30-month jail sentence was imposed on him.

He refused to seek bail.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court upheld Uthayakumar’s conviction and sentence on February 18 this year.

He was convicted of sedition for publishing remarks on the Police Watch website through a letter to then British prime minister Gordon Brown in 2007.

The former Internal Security Act detainee was sentenced on June 5 last year, just hours after his younger brother P. Waythamoorthy was appointed senator and deputy minister in Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s administration, following the May 5 general election.

Waythamoorty has since resigned from public office.

Lawyer M. Manoharan today said his client Uthayakumar was a well-known human rights activists who only pointed out the errors and defects in the government.

“In this case, there was no threat to national security and public disorder when the letter was posted on a website,” he said.

Manoharan had also appealed that his client’s jail term be reduced to less than 12 months or a fine, if the court maintained he was guitly of the offence.

Deputy public prosecutor Azlina Rasdi submitted the article posted and a term used that Indian were “ethnically cleansed” was made to cause hatred among the people in multi-racial Malaysia.

“The trial court was correct in its finding to convict the appellant. The sentence imposed was appropriate after taking into account the public interest element,” she said.

Uthayakumar is among several people, including politiicians and a university professor who have recenty been charged or are under investigation for sedition.

On September 5, Muhammad Safwan Anang, a former chairman of Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia was found guilty of sedition and sentenced to 10 months’ jail over a speech delivered on May 13 last year.

On September 2, Universiti Malaya law lecturer Professor Dr Azmi Sharom  was charged under Section 4(1)(b) and Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 over his comments in a news article titled “Take Perak crisis route for speedy end to Selangor impasse, Pakatan told.”

Sabah politician David Orok was prosecuted under the same law on September 3 for allegedly insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad on Facebook two months ago.

On September 8, activist Ali Abd Jalil pleaded not guilty in the Selayang Sessions Court to a sedition charge for allegedly belittling the Johor Sultanate and calling for the state’s royal institution to be abolished on Facebook in January.

He was re-arrested the same day, under the same law, after posting bail, for allegedly insulting the Sultan of Selangor on Facebook in August.

On September 10, Muslim preacher Wan Ji Wan Hussin claimed trial to a sedition charge for having allegedly insulted the Sultan of Selangor in a Facebook post In November.

Padang Serai MP N.Surendran (PKR), Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad, and Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N.Rayer (DAP) have all been charged with sedition.

Seputeh MP Teresa Kok (DAP), Batu MP Tian Chua (PKR) and activist Haris Ibrahim are also facing trial for sedition.

Azmi and Sri Muda assemblyman Mat Shuhaimi Shafie have filed applications to declare the Sedition Act, enacted the British colonial period, as against freedom of speech. – September 17, 2014.