KUALA LUMPUR: The Kuala Lumpur High Court today sentenced lawyer and DAP chairman Karpal Singh to a fine of RM4,000 for sedition.
On Feb 21, the same court had found him guilty of sedition for questioning the Sultan of Perak’s action in removing Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin as the menteri besar of Perak in 2009.
Trial judge Azman Abdullah delivered the sentence today after hearing mitigation from Karpal Singh’s lawyers Ram Karpal Singh, Sanjeet Kaur and Gobind Singh Deo, and from the prosecution.
Justice Azman however did not allow the Bar Council and Lawasia to make submissions for Karpal Singh.
The RM4,000 fine means Karpal Singh can be disqualified as the Bukit Gelugor MP if he fails in his appeal to either overturn the conviction, or to reduce the fine to be below RM2,000.
Wheelchair-bound Karpal Singh, 74, was found guilty of having said at his legal firm in Jalan Pudu Lama on Feb 6, 2009, that the removal of Mohammad Nizar and the appointment of Dr Zambry Abdul Kadir as the new menteri besar by the sultan could be questioned in court.
The charge, under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act 1948, provides for a maximum jail term of three years and a fine of RM5,000, or both, upon conviction.
The High Court had, on June 11, 2010, acquitted and discharged Karpal Singh without calling for his defence but, following an appeal by the prosecution, the Court of Appeal, on Jan 20, 2012, ordered him to make his defence.
The court today was filled with Pakatan Rakyat leaders and supporters.
Shouts of ‘zalim’
Earlier, in mitigation, Karpal Singh’s defence team argued that the politician merely offered a legal opinion and the charge leveled at him was done in bad faith.
Also present at the court today was Opposition Leader Anwar Ibrahim, DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang, Pas deputy president Mohamad Sabu, Penang Chief Minister Lim Guan Eng and Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.
Hundreds of Pakatan Rakyat supporters gathered at the court as early as 8am. However the situation remained calm throughout except for one instance when the crowd shouted “zalim” (cruel) when the prosecution sought jail sentence for Karpal Singh.
The court’s decision has since received heavy criticism from lawyers and pro human rights group.
Previously, Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) depicted the decision as the return of authoritarianism and political persecution.
The group expressed shock over the conviction as they strongly believed that it was not a crime to make critical comments.
Lawyer Syahredzan Johan also pointed out that what Karpal Singh had said in regards to Sultan Azlan Shah’s decision to remove Nizar Jamaluddin as the Perak Menteri Besar in 2009 was merely an opinion from a legal expert.
Meanwhile, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) said in a press statement that Karpal Singh’s conviction sent a message that lawyers in Malaysia were not free to express their opinion on legal issues before condemning the conviction saying it was inconsistent with international law.