Malaysia: Police Postpone Interrogation of Cartoonist Zunar

Nani Yusof and Hata Wahari
Washington and Kuala Lumpur
161229-my-zunar-620.jpg Malaysian cartoonist Zunar speaks during an interview at his office in Kuala Lumpur, April 13, 2015.

Malaysian satirical cartoonist Zunar said he would not have to report to a police station in the Kuala Lumpur area for questioning on Friday, as he had expected, because officials postponed the meeting indefinitely without explanation.

Zunar, a BenarNews contributor who has been arrested twice since late November over allegations of sedition and “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy” for cartoons critical of Malaysia’s government and judiciary, said he still expected to be summoned later.

“My lawyer has contacted the Dang Wangi district police station this afternoon and was told that I did not need to report to the police station tomorrow as requested two weeks ago,” Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, told BenarNews by phone on Thursday.

“My lawyer was informed that the police will call and give a new date, and also did not give the reason why I should not be present at IPD [District Police Headquarters] tomorrow,” Zunar added.

Police and government officials could not be reached for comment Thursday.

The cartoonist was last arrested while appearing at a charity event, “Tea With Zunar,” at the Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall on Dec. 17.

Police seized more than 1,000 copies of his cartoon books, sketches and cartoon T-shirts, which he valued at around 40,000 ringgit [U.S. $10,000].

He was arrested then along with four other people and taken to the Dang Wangi police station as part of an investigation under Section 124 of Malaysia’s Penal Code, which covers activities deemed as detrimental to democracy. He was released six hours later.

On Nov. 26, Zunar was arrested under the Sedition Act and his artwork that was on display at an exhibit in George Town, Penang state, was also confiscated by the authorities. He was released the following day.

When contacted Thursday, Zunar said his legal team was gathering information to enable him to take legal action against the government and police in order to retrieve all copies of his confiscated works.

The winner of the 2016 Cartooning for Peace Award has been barred from leaving Malaysia since June. He is also facing nine sedition charges for allegedly insulting the judiciary in tweets made regarding the conviction of former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in a sodomy case in February 2015. If convicted on all nine charges he could be sentenced to 43 years in jail.

International rights and free speech advocacy groups have called for the authorities to drop all charges against the cartoonist, saying the government was going after him for criticizing it in his cartoons.

On Tuesday, Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) issued a statement in which it noted that Zunar had been told to report for interrogation by police on Friday, following his Dec. 17 arrest.

“We call for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all charges against this cartoonist and we urge the Malaysian authorities to stop using the Sedition Act to intimidate and threaten journalists,” RSF editor-in-chief Virginie Dangles said.


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