The Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court today acquitted and discharged a graphic designer on a charge of uploading a caricature of former prime minister Najib Abdul Razak on his Instagram account.
Judge Zamri Bakar made the decision after deputy public prosecutor Noor Jazilah Mohd Yushaa informed the court that the Attorney-General’s Chambers had agreed to withdraw the charge against Mohd Fahmi Reza Mohd Zarin, 41, after receiving a letter of representation submitted by his lawyer Syahredzan Johan.
"The Attorney-General’s Chambers has received the representation sent by Mohd Fahmi Reza. As such, the prosecution has no intention of continuing with the case and requests for the charge against the person summoned to be withdrawn under Section 254 of the Criminal Procedure Code and for the person summoned to be discharged not amounting to an acquittal," said Noor Jazilah during pre-trial proceedings today.
Syahredzan, however, asked the court to acquit and discharge his client on the grounds that the prosecution had no intention of pursuing the case and the court allowed the application.
According to Bernama, Fahmi had sent two letters of representation dated June 12 and 16 to the Attorney-General’s Chambers seeking that the Attorney-General withdraw the charge against him.
On June 6, 2016, Fahmi had pleaded not guilty to a charge with improper use of network facilities by knowingly uploading an image of the then prime minister on his Instagram account, with the profile name “kuasasiswa”, with the intention to annoy others on Jan 31, 2016.
Fahmi Reza was charged under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which carries a penalty of imprisonment for up to two years or a maximum fine of RM50,000.
"After more than two years fighting with baseless prosecutions and trials, finally I’m free from the 'Akta Sakit Hati' (Hurt Feelings Act) which is related to Najib’s clown face caricature."
"Akta Sakit Hati" was the term he coined to describe the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998.
"The KL #clowntrial is finally over! This is a victory for freedom of expression, freedom of the people to criticise authority through the use of art and satire," he added.
To celebrate the ruling, Fahmi uploaded a Facebook photograph of himself waving a cut-out of the contentious caricature court complex with the caption: "Freed! Criticising rulers and the authorities with art and satire as weapons is not a crime".
Last February, Fahmi was sentenced to a month’s jail and fined RM30,000 by the Ipoh Sessions Court over the Najib clown caricature which he uploaded online.
Fahmi was charged in June 2016 under Section 233(1)(a) of the Communications and Multimedia Act, for posting the caricature with the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission logo.
A stay of execution of the jail sentence was granted pending appeal and the artist crowdfunded the amount needed to pay the fine.
Fahmi also confirmed to Malaysiakini that he is still waiting for the appeal result.
"Yes, I am still awaiting the outcome of my appeal at the Ipoh High Court against the conviction and sentencing from last February."