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Appellate court adjourns to consider Safwan's sedition case

The Court of Appeal postponed its decision on former student activist Muhammad Safwan Anang’s sedition case sine die today to consider submissions from both parties.

"This case is quite technical, so we need time to consider it,” said Justice Mohtaruddin Baki who headed the three-member bench.

The other judges presiding on the hearing are Zakaria Sam and Prasad Sandosham Abraham.

Safwan is appealing against the decision of the High Court in Kuala Lumpur in December last year to uphold his conviction under the Sedition Act 1948.

Meanwhile, the prosecution is appealing against the High Court’s decision to impose a lighter sentence of a RM5,000 fine, and urged the Court of Appeal to reinstate the prison sentence first imposed by the Sessions Court in Kuala Lumpur.

This would be Safwan and the prosecution’s final appeal in this case.

Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, Safwan’s lead counsel Ariff Azami Hussein said the postponement was a good sign.

“It is a good sign that the court is really considering the matter. Of course, it is relating to technical (matters) and it is a very rare case, so we understand that they have to take some time to decide,” he said.

Ariff, a lawyer from the human rights group ProGuam, added that Safwan’s prosecution was unnecessary.

He said the Sedition Act ought to be amended or repealed because there were other means for the government to prevent any offences or incitements from taking place.

Meanwhile, Safwan, the former Solidariti Mahasiswa Malaysia chairperson, vowed to campaign for the repeal of the Sedition Act, no matter the outcome of his trial.

“It is the nature of our struggle that it never ends. Even if we succeed in setting aside this prosecution under the Sedition Act, it will be a sign that we need to continue to campaign for the Sedition Act’s repeal,” he said.

Safwan is accused of making a seditious speech on May 13, 2013, which supposedly urged the people to topple the government through illegal means. This was a week after the 13th general election, amid nationwide protests against its outcome.

During his submissions today, Ariff argued that the charges were defective because there was nothing in his speech to imply that.

Instead, he said, Safwan had, at worst, urged the people to no longer trust the government.

He said Safwan advocated legitimate methods to call for change, and even made reference to his handing over memorandums to the government in his speech.

Meanwhile, in appealing for stiffer penalties against Safwan, deputy public prosecutor Muhammad Azmi Mashud urged the court to consider the seriousness of his alleged offence.

The courtroom was packed today with reporters and civil society activists, while police boosted security by controlling access to the courtroom where the appeal was being heard, and increasing the number of personnel present.

Among those who attended Safwan’s hearing were Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom, Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen, Batu MP Chua Tian Chang, and Amanah deputy president Salahuddin Ayub.