Kuala Lumpur. A Malaysian court on Tuesday upheld the detention of a political cartoonist two years ago on suspicion of sedition, but found the confiscation of his books illegal.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court ordered the police and Home Ministry to return 66 books and a painting to Zulkiflee SM Anwar, popularly known as Zunar, that were seized during a raid at his office on Sept. 24, 2010.
Zunar was reportedly arrested during the raid and said he was taken to several police stations. He was also reportedly detained for one day in a police station at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport on suspicion that some of his works were seditious.
He claimed that his arrest was made in bad faith and was clearly intended to stop the launching of his books.
The confiscated books poke fun at government officials and political issues besetting the country. The court said police had failed to provide evidence that would justify the seizure of the materials.
Zunar filed a case against police officers and the ministry in June 2011 challenging the arrest and seizure.
Phil Robertson, deputy director for Asia for Human Rights Watch, said the court ruling set back the right to freedom of expression in Malaysia.
“The court’s verdict against Zunar is no laughing matter but of real consequence for Malaysia,” he said. “The conclusion to be drawn is that politicians and officials who feel stung by Zunar’s pen apparently count for more than free expression.”
Robertson did hail the part of the ruling that ordered the immediate return of the books.