Malaysian Court Orders Government to Pay Cartoonist Zunar Over Lawsuit

Hadi Azmi
Kuala Lumpur
170411-MY-zunar-620.jpg Zunar shows a replica drawing of a damaged piece of his artwork at the Kuala Lumpur High Court building, April 11, 2017.
Courtesy of Zunar

A Malaysian court Tuesday awarded 18,000 ringgit (U.S $4,060) in damages to satirical cartoonist Zunar for his lawsuit against the government over its seizure of 66 copies of his books and pieces of art-work nearly seven years ago.

Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, a BenarNews contributor whose pen name is Zunar, has been arrested twice since November 2016 over allegations of sedition and “activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy” for cartoons critical of Malaysia’s government and judiciary.

After Tuesday’s Kuala Lumpur High Court ruling, he reminded Malaysian police to take care of materials seized during those arrests.

“Police had confiscated 40 pieces of my artwork in the state of Penang and the 1,300 books seized in Kuala Lumpur must be kept in good condition or they will face the same consequences,” he told BenarNews on Tuesday.

He said lawsuits had been filed to recover the materials.

“This is a violation of the rights of cartoonists. We have rights, too,” he said.

On Tuesday, a prosecutor confirmed that an official with the Kuala Lumpur High Court had recorded a consent judgment in regard to damages. Zunar sued the Malaysian government, the home ministry, a former inspector-general of police and two police officials who led the effort to seize the books in September 2010.

Raid details

Back then, Malaysian police raided Zunar’s office in Kuala Lumpur and arrested the cartoonist under the Sedition Act. They also confiscated his drawing depicting Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife, Rosmah Mansor, along with the then newly published book “Cartoon-O-Phobia.”

In 2014, the Court of Appeal reaffirmed a decision by the Kuala Lumpur High Court in July 2012 that instructed police to return the books and the artwork.

“Today’s decision is not about the quantum, but is a lesson to police and the Malaysian government that using criminal law arbitrarily to confiscate and destroy cartoon works is unacceptable and was done in bad faith,” Zunar said in a statement.

More recently, Zunar was arrested while appearing at a charity event, “Tea with Zunar,” on Dec. 17, 2016. Police seized more than 1,000 copies of his cartoon books, sketches and T-shirts, which he valued at around 40,000 ringgit ($9,000).

Zunar and four other people were taken to the Dang Wangi police station under Section 124 of the penal code covering activities deemed detrimental to democracy. He was released six hours later.

Less than a month earlier, on Nov. 25, 2016, Zunar was arrested under the Sedition Act and his artwork at an exhibit in George Town, Penang state, was confiscated. He was released the following day.

The winner of the 2016 Cartooning for Peace Award has been barred from leaving Malaysia since June 2016.

Zunar also faces nine sedition charges for allegedly insulting the judiciary in tweets made regarding the conviction of de facto opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim in a sodomy case in February 2015. If convicted on all charges Zunar could be sentenced to up to 43 years in jail.

Hata Wahari contributed to this report.


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