Human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen charged with sedition

Human rights lawyer Eric Paulsen was today charged with sedition over his Twitter post which allegedly criticised the Malaysian Islamic Development Department (Jakim) for spreading extremism via Friday sermons.

BY JENNIFER GOMEZ Published: 5 February 2015 11:29 AM

Paulsen, who is executive director of civil society movement Lawyers for Liberty, posted the remark on January 11.

He was arrested by police the following night, with Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Khalid Abu Bakar tweeting about the lawyer’s arrest.

Paulsen pleaded not guilty at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court to the charge under Section 4(1)(c) of the colonial era law.

In an immediate reaction, Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch  deputy director for Asia, said there appeared to be no limits to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s pursuit of critics of his government, given that almost any utterance could be twisted into a violation of the vague terms under the Sedition Act.

“By proceeding to charge Eric Paulsen with sedition for a single tweet, the Malaysian government is again demonstrating the depths of its outrageous crackdown on free speech and its willingness to attack human rights activists to try and silence them.

“Instead of prosecuting lawyers like him, the government should be asking for their help to bring Malaysia’s antiquated laws into line with international human rights standards, starting with dumping the rights-abusing Sedition Act,” he said in a statement.

Following Paulsen’s tweet, Umno Youth made a report against the lawyer at the Putrajaya district police headquarters.

Paulsen had also lodged a police report after receiving death threats from netizens over his tweet on Jakim.

He said he had not meant to insult Islam.

“I have never referred to the religion of Islam in my tweet, I only criticised Jakim as an agency under the Prime Minister’s Department,” he said.

Paulsen also said he was surprised to have been accused of criticising Islam because of the post.

He took down the tweet following backlash.

Lawyer and Padang Serai MP N. Surendran and Universiti Malaya law professor Dr Azmi Sharom are among several people, including opposition leaders, a journalist, activists and two ulama, who have been hauled up in Putrajaya’s sedition dragnet over the last year.

Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad (PAS), Seri Delima assemblyman R.S.N. Rayer (DAP), Seputeh MP Teresa Kok (DAP) and Batu MP Tian Chua have also been charged with sedition. – February 5, 2015.