Malaysia charges opposition leader with sedition over remarks on royalty

KUALA LUMPUR – Malaysia on Tuesday (July 18) charged opposition leader Muhammad Sanusi Md Nor with sedition for allegedly insulting the country’s revered sultans, state media Bernama reported.

Muhammad Sanusi, a popular politician with the Islamist party PAS and the chief minister of Kedah state, has pleaded not guilty, according to the report, which said he was charged with two counts of sedition over remarks made in a political speech this month.

Malaysia’s sultans play a largely ceremonial role, including acting as custodians of Islam in the Muslim-majority country, and are held in deep respect.

Negative remarks about its royalty can be prosecuted under a colonial-era Sedition Act, which has been used against people who criticise the sultans on social media.

It is similar to Thailand, which has a strict lese majeste law prohibiting insults against its monarchy. However, sedition charges against Malaysian politicians have been rare in recent years.

The charges come as political tensions rise in Malaysia ahead of next month’s regional polls in which the opposition alliance – which includes PAS – is expected to pose a strong challenge to Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim’s ruling alliance.

Kedah is one of the six states that will elect a new government on Aug 12.

Muhammad Sanusi’s remarks, according to other media reports, questioned decisions taken by the royalty regarding the formation of government in the federal and state level.

If found guilty, he faces up to three years in prison and a maximum penalty of 5,000 ringgit (S$1,457).

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