Malaysia

Karpal Singh found guilty of sedition

Veteran lawyer Karpal Singh (pic) was today found guilty of uttering seditious words against the Sultan of Perak at the height of the constitutional crisis in 2009.

High Court judge Azman Abdullah said the defence failed to create a reasonable doubt in the prosecution's case.

"The prosecution has proven its case after this court heard the defence witnesses, the submissions of both parties and the judgment of the Court of Appeal," he said.

Lawyer Gobind Singh Deo applied that sentencing be deferred to another day for them to prepare mitigation to obtain a lighter sentence.

"We need to obtain medical records to support our case," he said.

Karpal, 73, is wheelchair-bound following a road accident in January 2005.

Azman then fixed sentencing on March 7.

A calm and composed Karpal told reporters later he accepted the decision and would file an appeal at the Court of Appeal within 14 days.

Karpal, who is DAP chairman, also risks being disqualified as MP as the offence carries a maximum RM5,000 fine or three years' jail, or both, if convicted.

Under the Federal Constitution, an elected representative is disqualified from office if fined more than RM2,000 or jailed for a term exceeding one year.

Also present in the packed court room to hear the verdict were opposition leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang and Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng.

Karpal joins the list of DAP leaders who were convicted under the draconian law which critics said was designed to stifle dissent.

The late Dr Ooi Kee Saik, a former Penang DAP chief, was the first in 1970, followed by the late Fan Yew Teng, who was Kampar MP and acting secretary-general, in 1975 .

Guan Eng was also found guilty of the offence in 1998 and sentenced to 18 months jail. He returned to active politics in 2004.

Karpal was said to have committed the offence at his legal firm in Jalan Pudu Lama in Kuala Lumpur on February 6, 2009.

The Bukit Gelugor MP was alleged to have said that the removal of Datuk Seri Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as mentri besar of Perak by Sultan Azlan Shah could be questioned in a court of law.

Karpal's defence was that he offered a legal opinion and not a threat to the Ruler, who was once the Lord President of the then Supreme Court.

His defence team also contended that the charge was framed in bad faith as there were others who made worse seditious remarks but no action was taken.

"Karpal did not question the Ruler's prerogative to appoint a menteri besar, but his contention is that such power can only be exercised when there is a vacancy," Gobind had said in his submission at the close of the defence's case last month.

"The law allows for Rulers to be sued and it is for this reason that a Special Court was set up in 1993," Gobind said.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Noorin Badaruddin said Karpal had uttered seditious words and his intention was irrelevant for the prosecution to prove.

"He has questioned the prerogative of the Sultan under the constitution," she said, adding the statement was made in the midst of a tense political crisis then.

She said the lawyer's words have the tendency to create hatred towards the Ruler.

Azman first acquitted Karpal without calling for his defence in June 2010.

In January 2012, the Court of Appeal ordered Karpal to enter his defence after the public prosecutor's appeal was allowed. – February 21, 2014.

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