Hisham Rais escapes prison time, fined RM5,000 for sedition conviction

Activist Hishamuddin Rais arrives at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, May 16, 2016. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa
Activist Hishamuddin Rais arrives at the Palace of Justice in Putrajaya, May 16, 2016. ― Picture by Yusof Mat Isa

PUTRAJAYA, May 16 ― The Court of Appeal today overturned the previous High Court's decision in sentencing activist Hishamuddin Rais to nine months in prison for sedition.

The three-panel judge led by Datuk Tengku Maimun Tuan Mat upheld an earlier Sessions Court’s decision to slap Hishamuddin with a RM5,000 fine.

“This is an unanimous decision, we find no reason to dismiss the appeal on the conviction,” Judge Tengku Maimun said in the courtroom.

“(But) we find no reason to disturb the Sessions Court's decision on the sentence. The Sessions Court applied correct sentencing... the sentence of nine months set aside.”

Outside the courtroom, Hishamuddin thanked his lawyers and relatives for helping him throughout the ordeal.

“The court just now has proven that my speech did not need to land me jail time,” he said to his supporters who chanted “Hidup rakyat”.

His lawyers, Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan and Syahredzan Johan, added they were happy with the decision.

On January 9 last year, the KL Sessions Court found Hishamuddin guilty of sedition for his 2013 speech and fined him RM5,000 in default of six months’ jail.

Judge Azman Mustapha, who took more than an hour to decide on the sentencing, said then that inciting the public to topple the government is a “serious offence”.

In his May 13 remarks, Hishamuddin and several other speakers had allegedly incited the public to overthrow the government through street protests during a forum shortly after the May 5 general election which saw Barisan Nasional (BN) retain power narrowly.

In January this year, the High Court sentenced Hishamuddin nine months in jail for sedition after allowing the prosecution's appeal for a more deterrent sentence than the RM5,000 fine.

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