Malaysian lawyer Eric Paulsen (pictured left) is being detained after his arrest today under the Sedition Act for tweeting remarks about hudud (the Islamic penal code), which the government in the northern Malaysian state of Kelantan wants to implement.
Paulsen, who is the executive director of Lawyers for Liberty, was arrested at an arts fair in Kuala Lumpur. He is expected to be held in a lock-up overnight.
His lawyer, Melissa Sasidaran, said in a tweet that police confiscated Paulsen’s phone and took him for questioning at the Dang Wangi police headquarters.
“Police are here at #ArtForGrabs to arrest @EricPaulsen101,” she tweeted this afternoon.
The Inspector General of Police (IGP), Khalid Abu Bakar, has been quoted as saying that Paulsen should “watch his habit and mouth” in making comments on sensitive issues such as religion.
The Rakyat Post quoted the police chief as saying: “Who is Eric Paulsen to question whether the hudud law is fair or not? It’s a sensitive issue; why question that?”
Demonstrators who are calling for the resignation or sacking of the IGP are holding a one-week sit-down protest next to Dataran Merdeka (Independence Square) in central Kuala Lumpur. They are also demanding the release of the jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and the resignation of the prime minister, Najib Razak.
Khalid Abu Bakar has been criticised for trawling through Twitter for opposition comments and using his account to issue warnings to government critics and to demand the arrest of those who dissent.
The deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, Phil Robertson, said the police chief was creating an atmosphere of fear with his comments and policing of social media.
There have been a series of arrests of activists protesting over the jailing of Anwar Ibrahim, but this is the first arrest over comments about the drive by the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) to implement hudud in Kelantan.
The presenter of a video about hudud aired by the radio station BFM, Aisyah Tajuddin, was last week threatened with death and rape.
BFM took down the satirical video from its website and YouTube channel after Aisyah became the target of the threats made on social media.
Aisyah said in the video that religion was being used to distract people from the real issues such as the economy and high rates of drug use and divorce. BFM said the presenter was not the author of the script and the views on the video were not her personal stance on the issue.
Full story to come.