The Court of Appeal has acquitted former student activist Muhammad Safwan Anang of his sedition conviction this morning.
In an unanimous decision read out by Justice Prasad Sandosham Abraham, it said the courts must test objectively whether Safwan’s statement indeed has seditious tendency - as laid out in a precedent against the late Karpal Singh - or was merely political commentary.
“Having perused through the (impugned) statement ourselves, we are satisfied that the statement does not have a seditious tendency.
“It would follow therefore that the prosecution has failed to prove a prima facie case against the appellant in the Sessions Court, and therefore should have been acquitted,” he said.
The court ordered for Safwan to be acquitted and discharged, while the prosecution’s cross-appeal seeking for Safwan’s jail sentence to the reinstated was dismissed.
The three-member panel was chaired by Justice Mohtaruddin Baki. The other member was Justice Zakaria Sam.
Speaking to reporters outside the courtroom, a visibly relieved Safwan vowed to continue campaigning for the abolition of the Sedition Act 1948.
“We believe this is a very good and very positive signal for us to continue our campaign, and the government should listen. Today’s case is the strongest signal, in which the Court of Appeal itself has acquitted me of sedition.
“It shows that, truly, the government should listen to the voice and criticisms of the people openly. This is criticism, so why should we who criticise the government be charged for sedition, whereas the necessity of the Sedition Act itself ought to be reconsidered?” said Safwan, who is now a Bersih steering committee member.
Safwan was alleged to have made a speech encouraging the public to topple the government through illegal means on May 13, 2013 at the Kuala Lumpur at Selangor Chinese Assembly Hall, about a week after the 13th general election, amid nationwide demonstrations against the election results.
Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court had found Safwan guilty of an offence under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act, and sentenced Safwan to ten months’ imprisonment.
The Kuala Lumpur High Court had upheld the conviction, but commuted his prison term to a RM5,000
During final submissions on July 18 before the court had adjourned sine die until today, Safwan’s lead counsel Ariff Azami Hussein had argued that the charges against Safwan were defective.
This is because there was nothing in Safwan’s speech to imply he had said what he was accused of saying, and had instead advocated legitimate means of calling for change such as the handing of memorandums to the government.
At worst, Safwan had merely told the people to no longer trust the government, the lawyer argued at the time.
Deputy public prosecutor Muhammad Azmi Mashud, meanwhile, had urged the court during final submissions to consider the seriousness of Safwan’s alleged offence.- Mkini