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Malaysia law professor charged with sedition

[JURIST] Malaysian prosecutors charged University of Malay law professor Azmi Sharom with sedition on Tuesday for his opinion on a political crisis that occurred five years ago. Sharom voiced his opinion in an article [news article] published August 14 by The Malay Mail Online, in which he stated that the 2009 collapse of an opposition state government was "legally wrong" and the result of a secret meeting. Sharom joins four opposition politicians who also were charged this year under Malaysia's Sedition Act [text, PDF]. The law, which prohibits discourse of an undefined "seditious tendency" was originally enacted by colonial authorities of British Malaysia in 1948 and has been criticized by human rights advocates. The charge carries a maximum penalty of RM 5,000 and/or three years in prison. Sharom has pleaded not guilty and requested a trial.

Last month the lawyer representing Anwar Ibrahim [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], the leader of Malaysia's strongest governmental opposition group [party website, in Malay], was charged with sedition because of a written statement he issued acting as Anwar's legal counsel. The charges came after a court overturned [JURIST report] Anwar's acquittal on sodomy charges and sentenced him to five years in prison. In 2012 Prime Minister Najib Razak announced [JURIST report] he would repeal the 1948 sedition law to protect freedom of speech in the country, a proclamation the UN responded [JURIST report] to with praise.

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