Malaysian Court Allows Zunar to Challenge Travel Ban

Hata Wahari
Kuala Lumpur
2017-04-14
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170414-MY-zunar-620.jpg Cartoonist Zunar (third from right) and his lawyer, N. Surendran (to Zunar’s right), speak to reporters following Friday’s court hearing.
Courtesy of Zunar

Satirical cartoonist Zunar can challenge a Malaysian government directive banning him from leaving the country, a judge ruled Friday.

The Kuala Lumpur High Court gave Zulkiflee Anwar Ulhaque, a BenarNews contributor whose pen name is Zunar, permission to start legal proceedings to challenge the travel ban that went into effect in June 2016.

During Friday’s hearing, Judge Mohd Zaki Abdul Wahab dismissed an objection by Malaysian public prosecutors over Zunar’s application to be able to travel freely to other countries.

Zunar, who has been charged separately for alleged sedition for his cartoons that skewer Prime Minister Najib Razak, told BenarNews he was pleased with the decision because it moves him closer to being able to participate in international forums and events.

“The leave application is a first legal step before a judicial review challenge can be made,” he said. “This is the first round. I hope there will be a good decision for me in the real challenge.”

Zunar filed a lawsuit on Dec. 7, 2016, naming the immigration department director general, the home minister and the Malaysian government as respondents. His suit claims that the exit ban against him is unconstitutional.

The winner of the 2016 Cartooning for Peace Award learned of the ban when he was stopped from leaving Malaysia for a trip to Singapore to attend a forum on Oct. 17, 2016. An immigration officer told Zunar that the order came directly from Inspector General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar on June 24, 2016.

Damages awarded

The judge’s ruling comes three days after a Malaysian court awarded damages to Zunar in a lawsuit against the government.

On Tuesday, the court awarded 18,000 ringgit (U.S $4,060) to Zunar over the government’s seizure of 66 copies of his books and pieces of art-work nearly seven years ago.

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. Many of his cartoons are critical of Prime Minister Najib and the Malaysian government.

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

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