Belfast Telegraph

Friday 26 December 2014

Arrest over sultan Facebook page

Malaysian police may charge a man for allegedly creating a Facebook page that mocked the country's former king
Malaysian police may charge a man for allegedly creating a Facebook page that mocked the country's former king

Malaysian police may charge a man with sedition for allegedly creating a Facebook page that mocked the country's former king.

The suspect is believed to have set up the page to criticise Sultan Iskandar Ismail, a state ruler who was Malaysia's king for five years in the 1980s, a police official said. Sultan Iskandar died at the age of 77 last January.

The 40-year-old man is being investigated for sedition, which is punishable by three years in prison, the official said. Under Malaysian law, acts that provoke hatred against royal rulers are considered seditious.

Nine Malaysian states have sultans and other royal figures who command wide respect after centuries of hereditary rule. They take turns to become the country's constitutional monarch for five-year terms under a rotating system introduced at the end of British colonial rule in 1957.

Their role is largely ceremonial and the power to govern resides with the prime minister, parliament and state legislatures. Malaysia's ethnic Malay Muslim majority regards the royalty as upholders of Malay tradition and Islam.

Police began looking for the Facebook page's creator in August after receiving public complaints about it.

The page, which has since been removed, criticised the late sultan's spending and other activities, saying its aim was "to expose the treachery of the sultan against his race and religion".

It was not clear when the self-employed man might be charged, the police official said, adding that authorities found his location and determined his identity after tracking his internet use.

Sultan Iskandar's 29-year reign as ruler of southern Johor state was marred by controversy when he allegedly assaulted a hockey coach in 1992.

It was one of several incidents involving royals that led to constitutional changes that removed the sultans' long-time immunity from prosecution, though Sultan Iskandar was not taken to court over the alleged attack.

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