Saturday , February 24 2024

UK journalist calls Malaysia sentence ‘political revenge’


LONDON/ LUALA LUMPUR: UK journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown has accused Malaysia of seeking “political revenge” for her reporting after a court jailed her in absentia.

The 64-year-old is appealing a surprise conviction for criminal defamation of a Malaysian royal handed down this week.

A local magistrates’ court sentenced her to two years in prison during a single-day hearing.

Rewcastle Brown told media she was being targeted after her work on the multibillion-dollar 1MDB scandal.

The scandal saw $4.5bn (£3.9bn) stolen from the Malaysian sovereign fund founded by former Prime Minister Najib Razak in what is thought to be the world’s largest kleptocracy case.

It ensnared top Hollywood celebrities, brought down bankers from Goldman Sachs and saw the first criminal charges filed against the storied Wall Street firm.

Najib was jailed in 2022 but still faces a raft of other charges. He denies all wrongdoing.

On Wednesday the Kuala Terengganu Magistrates’ Court ruled that Ms Rewcastle Brown criminally defamed Malaysia’s former Queen Nur Zahirah in her book The Sarawak Report, the inside Story of the 1MDB Expose.

Rewcastle Brown said she was not notified in advance nor given the opportunity to defend herself in court. Her lawyers have already requested the ruling be set aside by a higher court on violations of the criminal procedure code.

“I’m afraid this is malicious, it is politically motivated. And I see it as revenge for my public interest journalism,” she told media. “I think there are a lot of very powerful and wealthy people in Malaysia who are revengeful that I identified the corruption of their former prime minister (Najib Razak), who remains popular and powerful and wealthy and “I think that it’s no coincidence that just two or three days after [he] failed to get a pardon from the (Malaysian) King that would have let him out of jail after a fraction of his sentence that this sentence was then passed against me”.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) described the decision to jail Rewcastle Brown as “outrageous” and has called on Malaysia to scrap the sentence and to “stop harassing the journalist over her crucial reporting on the country’s 1MDB scandal, recognized as one of the world’s biggest-ever corruption cases”.

“The harsh ruling will deter all reporters from investigating official corruption in Malaysia and represents a clear and present danger to press freedom in the country,” CPJ’s senior Southeast Asia representative Shawn Crispin said in a statement issued on Friday.

Malaysia has the world’s only rotating constitutional monarchy. The federal head of state changes every five years in what is a largely ceremonial role but the monarch wields significant cultural and political influence.

The oil-rich coastal state of Terengganu is home to one of the country’s nine royal families. The Malay ruler is called a Sultan and his wife, a Sultanah. (Int’l Monitoring Desk)

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