KUALA LUMPUR, April 14 — Activist lawyer Haris Ibrahim said he does not regret making the 2013 speech calling for a change in government although his remarks resulted today in a sedition conviction and an eight-month jail term.
Speaking to reporters after the court’s decision this afternoon, the 57-year-old Haris claimed all he had done was express public opinion regarding the outcome of the 13th general election.
“So I have no regrets for what I said and I think I merely articulated sentiments of the majority of people,” he said.
Haris was referring to Election 2013 when Barisan Nasional (BN) retained federal power despite losing the popular vote by winning the majority number of seats in Parliament.
“So this was the situation where 52 per cent of the people had voted for change and we were denied that; the people were unhappy, I was unhappy, we felt we had been cheated.
“And if in this country, it has reached the point where citizens are not permitted to articulate that frustration — it’s seditious, then I think it’s a sorry state of affairs in this country,” he said.
Haris said that an additional bail of RM5,000 was posted today, pending an appeal at the High Court against both his sedition conviction and jail term.
This morning, the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court convicted Haris of sedition after finding that his remarks had the tendency to urge Malaysians to change the government through unlawful means.
Sessions Court judge Shamsudin Abdullah also said that he found that Haris’ defence in relation to his remarks made on May 13, 2013 amounted to a “mere denial”, adding that the latter had failed to raise reasonable doubt on the prosecution’s case.
Before sentencing, Haris’ lawyer Gobind Singh urged the court to merely impose a fine on his client, pointing out that it was his first criminal offence and that the activist was also on numerous medical treatments, besides having two school-going children.
But deputy public prosecutor Muhammad Ilmami Ahmad said the fact that Haris was a first-time offender should not prevent the court from imposing a jail term, claiming that the latter’s remarks “threaten the public’s peace, harmony and unity”.
When delivering his sentence, the judge said he had considered the need for the punishment to serve as a lesson to both Haris and the public, as well as public interest to avoid the jeopardising of security.
Haris was charged on May 29, 2013 under Section 4(1)(b) of the Sedition Act, which is punishable with a maximum fine of RM5,000 and a maximum three-year jail term.