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 24 Apr 2009

Malaysia orders arrest of anti-govt blogger

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The editor of a Malaysian anti-government news Web site charged with sedition refused to attend his trial and went into hiding Thursday, prompting a court to order his arrest, reported the Associated Press.

Raja Petra Raja Kamarudin, who runs the popular Malaysia Today Web site, failed to appear for a court hearing on a sedition charge stemming from an article he wrote that allegedly implied the prime minister was involved in the murder of a Mongolian woman.

One of Malaysia's most famous online commentators, Raja Petra has infuriated authorities by publishing numerous claims of alleged wrongdoing by government leaders. The government has denounced Raja Petra's allegations as lies.

Raja Petra wrote on his site Thursday he feared he would be arrested under a law that allows indefinite detention without trial of suspects who threaten national security. He was held for two months under the law last year after the government accused him of causing ethnic tensions.

"If I were to turn up in court today I would never be allowed to leave," Raja Petra wrote. He claimed police had been monitoring him closely and that he had "reason to believe" the government was planning to re-arrest him under the law.

A district court near Kuala Lumpur issued an arrest warrant for Raja Petra after he failed to attend the sedition trial, which began last October, said his lawyer, Jadadish Chandra.

Home Minister Hishamuddin Hussein, whose ministry handles detentions under the security law, was traveling abroad and was not available to comment. His aide declined to comment on Raja Petra's claim. Senior police officials could not immediately be contacted.

Raja Petra refused to reveal his current location, but said he had left the central state of Selangor and would only return to attend the trial if he receives the government's assurance that he won't be arrested.

The sedition trial stems from Raja Petra's article last year that allegedly implied Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife were involved in the 2006 killing in Malaysia of Altantuya Shaariibuu, a 28-year-old Mongolian interpreter. Both have denied involvement.

If convicted of sedition, Raja Petra faces up to three years in prison.

Some of Malaysia's most popular blogs offer strong anti-government commentaries and present themselves as a substitute for mainstream media, which are controlled by political parties or closely linked to them.




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