PETALING JAYA: Several human rights organisations have slammed the additional one-year sentence given to preacher Wan Ji Wan Husin for sedition.
He was initially sentenced to nine months in jail by the Sessions Court in April 2018, but this was extended to one year by the Shah Alam High Court on Tuesday (July 10), when it denied Wan Ji’s appeal against his conviction and sentence.
The group expressed deep concerns over the court's verdict and the fact that the Attorney General’s Chambers did not acquiesce to Wan Ji’s appeal in the High Court, and, in fact, appeared to have cross-appealed and asked for a heavier sentence.
"This goes against the promise made by the Attorney General that there would not be any more selective prosecutions in the New Malaysia.
"The continued use and existence of the Sedition Act to restrict freedom of expression violates the right to freedom of expression under international human rights law.
"This casts further doubts on the Pakatan Harapan government's reform credentials and calls into question the government's sincerity toward a more democratic Malaysia," read the statement that was endorsed by 12 groups, including Sisters in Islam (SIS), Suara Rakyat Malaysia (Suaram), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Aliran.
Wan Ji was convicted under the Sedition Act for making remarks that were found to be seditious against the Sultan of Selangor in Facebook posts in 2012.
The groups called upon the government to concede to Wan Ji’s appeal on his conviction and sentence, to re-impose a moratorium on the Sedition Act and other repressive laws; and to abolish the Sedition Act in its entirety.
"The criminalisation of insults, per se, whether of royalty or any government leader, without any accompanying threat to national security, public order or public morality, cannot constitute a legitimate restriction of the freedom of expression," they said.
Amnesty International Malaysia said the court decision signaled a deep concern for the freedom of expression and assembly in Malaysia.
“Despite repeated calls to both the old and new government to repeal or amend repressive legislation, we are seeing individuals fall victim to these laws, indicating that the fight to enlarge the space to exercise one’s freedoms is far from over,” said its executive director Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu.