July 31, 2012
Confiscation of ZUNAR’s Books and Artwork unwarranted, says KL High Court Judge
by Koh Jun Lin@http://www.malaysiakini.com
The Kuala Lumpur High Court has held that the arrest and detention of political cartoonist Zunar in 2011 was lawful, but that the continued confiscation of his books and artwork is unwarranted.
As such, Justice Vazeer Alam Mydin Meera today ordered that the cartoonist’s works be returned. He also ordered the court registrar to determine the quantum of damages payable to Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaque. No order was made as to costs.
The judge said arresting officer Arikrishna Apparau and investigating officer Marina Hashim had the power to arrest Zunar under Section 20 of the Printing Presses and Publications Act (PPPA) and to seize his works under Section 11 of the Sedition Act.
He said the officers had shown that they had reasonable grounds to suspect that the contents of the book ‘Cartoon-o-phobia’ were seditious. Therefore, the two laws allowed the Police to effect the arrest and seizure of the materials without a warrant.
The judge took note of the fact some the cartoons imply that the Judiciary is under the control of the Executive. “(The cartoons) may be considered as political satire by some, but others might regard them as being seditious. (Arikrishna) belongs to the second category – a reasonable conclusion by a reasonable man,” he said.
However, he also said it would have only required a “simple determination” to arrive at a decision on whether the confiscated materials are seditious or not. Hence, continued retention of the materials is unwarranted.
“The arrest and seizure was for a reason. That reason was to carry out investigations to ascertain whether the plaintiff (Zunar) had committed an offence under the Sedition Act, or the Printing Presses and Publications Act… Surely it would not take two years to make that determination,” said the judge.
The prolonged retention of the works without further action is tantamount to infringement of Zunar’s right’s to life under Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution, as selling the cartoons contributes to his livelihood. The items seized include 66 copies of the book and a A2-size collage featuring the Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansor.
Justice Vazeer Alam also ruled that it was sufficient for the police officer to have informed Zunar of the grounds of arrest in layperson’s language, instead of citing the specific legislation used.
Speaking to reporters later, Zunar’s lawyer N Surendran hailed the decision as a partial victory, but said he would consider appealing the legality of his client’s detention.
Zunar urged the government to return 408 copies of his book ‘Gedung Kartoon’ seized in 2009, and to lift the ban on his other books ‘1Funny Malaysia’, ‘Perak Darul Kartoon’ and three editions of ‘Isu Dalam Kartoon’.
“These books are all banned under the PPPA. The prime minister said some time ago that he would revamp or reform the PPPA. So I would like to say to Najib, please ‘tepati janji’ (deliver your promise) and don’t be a false democrat,” he said.
He pointed out that, under Najib’s Administration, cartoonists have been subjected to the most pressure from the government.
“I was detained. This never happened under the previous Prime Ministers,” he said.
Zunar was arrested on September 24, 2010 during a raid at his office in Brickfields in Kuala Lumpur, just hours before he was supposed to launch ‘Cartoon-o-phobia’.
He was taken to six Police stations before being held overnight at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Police lock-up, and was released on the following day. Zunar then sued Arikrishna, Marina, Inspector-General of Police Ismail Omar, the Home Ministry and the government for unlawful detention.