Family defends man held over Facebook insult

Last updated 12:05 06/11/2012

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The family of a Malaysian man detained for allegedly insulting a state sultan on Facebook called for his release Monday, saying the government is violating his free-speech rights.

Police arrested 27-year-old Ahmad Abdul Jalil in Kuala Lumpur and took him to southern Johor state late Friday. He was freed briefly Monday after a magistrate court in Johor refused to extend his remand order but police immediately arrested him again, said his sister Anisa Abdul Jalil.

Anisa said the family was told he was being investigated for seditious remarks against the Johor sultan.

She said the family did not know what the offensive postings were. Local media have reported that the Facebook postings at issue question Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar's abilities as leader of a special forces group.

Anisa said police told family lawyers they are pursuing the case under the Communications and Multimedia Act for improper use of the Internet.

"This is too much. He has a right to free speech and he should be freed immediately. There should be no charges against him," Anisa told The Associated Press.

Fadiah Nadwa Fitri, a lawyer for the family, said the court has ruled that Ahmad's detention was unjustifiable and that his rearrest was a "blatant abuse of power" by police in defiance of the court order.

District police chief Ruslan Hassan said the case is "highly sensitive" and should be referred to the state police headquarters. The state police chief didn't answer his phone.

Nine Malaysian states have sultans and other royal figures. Though their roles are largely ceremonial, they command wide respect after centuries of hereditary rule.

Under Malaysian law, acts that provoke hatred against royal rulers are considered seditious. Only a few people have been charged with the crime in recent years.

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- AP

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