PUTRAJAYA, Nov 1 — Cartoonist Zunar failed to overturn today a High Court ruling last year that his 2010 arrest was legal even though a higher court rejected the government’s cross-appeal to outlaw the comic book that landed him behind bars.

A three-judge panel at the Court of Appeal unanimously ruled to uphold the ruling made by the Kuala Lumpur High Court that Zunar’s detention under the Sedition Act three years ago was lawful, even though the same court instructed the police to return all the books, drawings and to pay the damages as well.

The same panel also ruled against the federal government’s cross-appeal, and declared the comic book seizure illegal.
“We unanimously found no merit in both appeals,” presiding judge Datuk Abdul Aziz Abdul Rahim said today of the separate applications made by Zunar and the government to overturn the High Court ruling.

The other judges on the panel were Mohd Arif Md Yusof and Datuk David Wong.
But the cartoonist, whose real name is Zulkiflee SM Anwar Ulhaqur, believes that the Court of Appeal’s decision has in effect now made political cartoons a crime in Malaysia.

“By arresting me under the Sedition Act, the government has classified that drawing political cartoons in Malaysia is a crime.

“Sadly, the judges today confirmed it,” Zunar told The Malay Mail Online.

The cartoonist was arrested on September 24, 2010 and jailed for almost two days over the publishing of a comic book titled “Cartoon-O-Phobia”.

The detention was made several hours prior to the launching of the book.

Zunar and his company, Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd, later filed a suit to challenge the government on the grounds that the arrest was made in bad faith and was not according to the law.
He named Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) A. Arikrishna, ASP Marina Hashim, then Inspector-General of Police Tan Sri Ismail Omar, the Home Ministry and the Malaysian government as defendants.

Outside the courtroom, the cartoonist remarked to reporters that he found the Court of Appeal ruling to be “unusual” because his book had not been outlawed by the authorities yet action was taken against him as the author.

“If they said the book is fine, okay, legal and not banned by the government. How come the author become [sic] illegal?” he questioned.

“I’m the author of the book, who produced the book, all from me, in my own mind, the book is okay, but the author is not okay.

“And they detained me because of the production of this book,” he said.

He added that he will offer his latest comic books to the three judges “for them to understand what political cartoon is about”.

Zunar’s lawyer, R. Sivarasa told reporters he was disappointed with the Court of Appeal’s decision, and insisted that his client’s detention had been “totally unnecessary”.

“Even if the police think it’s an offence, then why detain for one and a half days?” he asked, before adding, “That is oppressive and malicious action.”

The cartoonist said he may yet raise his case to the Federal Court.

“In principle, I will keep fighting because my theme of cartoons is to fight through cartoons but of course from the legal aspect, I’ll discuss with my lawyer,” Zunar said.

Sivarasa said they had one month before they had to file their application if Zunar decided to push his case through to the top court.

Senior Federal Counsel Nor Mastura Ayob represented the defendants.

Melissa Chi The Malay Mail