Malaysian po­lit­i­cal car­toon­ist ar­rested

The Myanmar Times - - World -

A MALAYSIAN car­toon­ist known for lampooning the scan­dal-plagued prime min­is­ter and his fam­ily has been ar­rested for sedi­tion, a move de­nounced as the lat­est sign of pres­sure on gov­ern­ment crit­ics.

Zulk­i­fli An­war Ul­haque, who goes by the pen name Zu­nar, was ar­rested in Pe­nang state where he was par­tic­i­pat­ing in a lit­er­ary fes­ti­val.

Pe­nang district po­lice chief Mior Fari­dalathrash Wahid told AFP that Zu­nar was ar­rested “un­der the sedi­tion act”. He de­clined to give de­tails.

Fes­ti­val or­gan­is­ers and par­tic­i­pants con­demned the ar­rest.

“Levels of re­pres­sion are reach­ing dan­ger­ous levels in Malaysia,” said Michael Vatiki­o­tis, a writer at the fes­ti­val.

“The fact that Zu­nar’s ar­rest hap­pened at the Ge­orge Town Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val, with dozens of in­ter­na­tional writ­ers and artists, only un­der­scores the gov­ern­ment’s dis­re­gard for free­dom of ex­pres­sion.”

Dozens of gov­ern­ment crit­ics, in­clud­ing op­po­si­tion politi­cians, aca­demics, ac­tivists and jour­nal­ists, have been ar­rested in re­cent years for sedi­tion or other charges that rights and le­gal groups call highly ques­tion­able.

Zu­nar is no stranger to the law, hav­ing been ar­rested and hauled to court on sev­eral oc­ca­sions.

He has nine pre­vi­ous charges un­der the sedi­tion act which are still pend­ing trial.

His of­fice had pre­vi­ously been raided and there is a ban on his po­lit­i­cal car­toon books, which mostly mock Prime Min­is­ter Na­jib Razak and the widely al­leged lux­u­ri­ous life­style of his wife Ros­mah.

Mr Na­jib faces al­le­ga­tions that bil­lions of dol­lars were plun­dered from sov­er­eign fund 1MDB, his pet in­vest­ment project.

He and 1MDB deny wrong­do­ing. But the US Jus­tice Depart­ment ear­lier this year de­tailed an au­da­cious cam­paign of fraud and money-laun­der­ing by his fam­ily, as­so­ciates and an un­named “Malaysian Of­fi­cial 1” – an ap­par­ent thinly veiled ref­er­ence to Mr Na­jib.

Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple flooded the cap­i­tal with the yel­low colours of the re­formist move­ment de­mand­ing Mr Na­jib’s res­ig­na­tion dur­ing the pre­vi­ous week­end.

The leader of the re­formist group was ar­rested and is un­der lock-up in an un­known lo­ca­tion.

Author­i­ties had also ar­rested more than a dozen peo­ple be­fore, dur­ing and af­ter the demon­stra­tion, draw­ing the ire of in­ter­na­tional rights groups.

Photo: AFP

Malaysian car­toon­ist Zulk­i­fli An­war Ul­haque, pop­u­larly known as Zu­nar, poses with hand­cuffs ahead of a book-launch event in Kuala Lumpur re­cently.

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