By V. Anbalagan | The Edge Markets
Police have been asked to clarify whether lawyer Edmund Bon is being investigated as a suspect or witness over comments made in an article in The Malaysian Insider early this year.
In a letter to the investigating officer, his lawyer New Sin Yew said the right of a suspect and witness differed in the Criminal Procedure Code.
“If my client is probed as a suspect, please furnish us the five police reports lodged against him and also the words which were deemed to be seditious,” New said in the letter.
New also wanted police to state the website address and the title of article which appeared in The Malaysian Insider.
Bon has informed the police that he is free to have his statement recorded at his office at Pantai Business Park on Saturday between 10am and 1.30pm.
Meanwhile, lawyer Amer Hamzah Arshad is expected to accompany Bon should the police question him.
Bon is the latest to be investigated under the Sedition Act for allegedly saying that non-Muslims are not subject to fatwas or the shariah court.
He broke the news by tweeting from his handle @edmundbon that his firm Bon Advocates had received a call from a police officer in Penang, ASP Zaidi Rahman, who said that the lawyer was being investigated.
The investigation centres on an article in The Malaysian Insider‘s Bahasa Malaysia section, entitled “Bukan Islam tidak perlu patuh kepada titah Diraja atau fatwa, kata peguam”, which was published on January 20, 2014.
In the article, Bon told The Malaysian Insider: “Decrees and fatwas cannot be used against non-Muslims because they violate their legal and religious rights.”
He was commenting on a decree by the National Fatwa Council on the use of the word “Allah”, which the council said was exclusive to Muslims.
Bon had also said that non-Muslims could not be charged in the shariah court.
“Therefore, any fatwa by the National Fatwa Council cannot be applied to non-Muslims,” he had said.
In the article, he had also emphasised the secular nature of Malaysia’s Constitution, saying that as such, the country need not abide by any decree issued by the rulers, or any fatwa.
Bon’s comments in January came a day after the Yang di-Pertuan Agong issued a reminder about a 1986 fatwa which banned several words, including “Allah”, from being used by non-Muslims.
He now joins a string of opposition politicians, a law professor, the news portal Malaysiakini and one of its journalists, as well as two Muslim ulama who have either been charged with sedition, are facing trial under the law, or are under investigation.
The recent sedition blitz comes at a time when Putrajaya is facing pressure from Umno grassroots and some Malay groups to retain the colonial-era law, which they say will protect the position of the Malays, Islam and the royals.