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Anger at arrests in Malaysia for alleged royal insults

AFP  |  Kuala Lumpur 

Three people have been arrested in for allegedly insulting the former on after his shock abdication, sparking anger Thursday from activists at the use of "draconian" laws.

stepped aside at the weekend after just two years on the throne. No official reason was given, but it came after he reportedly married a Russian ex-beauty while on medical leave. It was the first time a Malaysian monarch had given up the throne before the end of his term. Under a unique arrangement, the throne changes hands every five years between the rulers of the nine states headed by Islamic royalty.

said two men aged 46 and 27, and a 26-year-old woman, were arrested under tough sedition laws Tuesday for allegedly posting insulting remarks about the on and

The trio face up to three years in jail if found guilty. While their role is ceremonial, Muslim-majority Malaysia's royalty command great respect, and criticising them is seen as deeply offensive. People are regularly arrested under the colonial-era sedition act for insulting royals.

But Latheefa Koya, of rights group Lawyers for Liberty, criticised the arrests, telling AFP: "The police should not give in to mob rule amid the push by some people for the authorities to act." A statement from the group, which pushes for legal reforms, added that the sedition act was a "piece of legislation" and it was shocking Malaysia's new administration was using it.

The government, which came to power last year after ousting an authoritarian regime, had pledged in its election manifesto to abolish the act and several other laws seen as repressive, but is yet to do so. also suggested authorities should not overzealously target people accused of posting insults.

"With regards to freedom of speech, if someone speaks factually, you cannot criminalise the person," he said. "If we shut everyone's mouth ... even when a crime has happened, then there will be injustice in the country.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Thu, January 10 2019. 15:45 IST
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