Malaysia drops sedition charges against artist

Last Updated: Thu, Oct 11, 2018 13:57 hrs
Cartoonist

Kuala Lumpur: Malaysian prosecutors on Thursday withdrew sedition charges against a graphic artist for depicting former Prime Minister Najib Razak, mired in a corruption scandal, as a clown in an image.

Fahmi Reza was being tried in a Kuala Lumpur court on charges of sedition, which carry a maximum five-year prison sentence or fines of up to 50,000 ringgit ($12,000) or both, reports Efe news.

"The KL (Kuala Lumpur) ·clowntrial is finally over!" Reza said in a Facebook post and added that he had been finally freed from charges after more than two years of fighting a "baseless" case.

According to Reza, the prosecution said in the latest hearing that they did not want to pursue the trial.

The artist called it a victory for freedom of expression and freedom of people to criticize through art and satire.

The image had depicted Najib as a sinister clown, with a red nose and red mouth, and arched eyebrows over a powdered white face, and had become a symbol of anti-government protests in the country.

In May, Najib lost the general elections to an opposition alliance led by veteran leader Mahathir Mohamad, his former mentor, who reopened corruption investigations against the former PM after assuming office.

Najib's problems began in 2015 when a news report alleged that he had diverted $681 million from the state-owned 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB) fund to his personal account.

The former leader, who established the fund and headed it until 2016, denied the allegations saying the money was a donation from a Saudi prince, and he was cleared by Malaysian authorities while in power.

He has been charged with 32 counts of money-laundering and abuse of power since the investigation was reopened.

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