|Posted by kasee|
| Saturday, 10 May 2008 |
By Debra Chong, The Malaysian Insider
PETALING JAYA,Controversial blogger Raja Petra Kamarudin of the news portal Malaysia Today is finally out of jail on bail.
Raja Petra, who was remanded at the Sungai Buloh Prison after being charged with publishing an allegedly seditious article, “Let's send the Altantuya murderers to hell”, was released at the Petaling Jaya Sessions Court at 9.35am today.
Like the day he was charged, the courthouse compound was crowded with dozens of his supporters, which included fellow blogger Tony Pua, who is also PJ Utara MP. They had gathered there as early as 8.30am. Many wore bright yellow T-shirts bearing Raja Petra's face and the words, “Justice for All...tantuya”.
Unlike Tuesday, the day he was charged, however, which saw a long-drawn out process of finding-the-courthouse that lasted 3 hours, Raja Petra's release today was quick. It was over in 10 minutes.
He arrived at the courthouse in a Black Maria at 9.25am. By 9.35am, he was released from remand after signing some papers at the bail counter. And by 9.45am, the 58-year-old did a Road Runner out of the court compound on the trail for food. He had not eaten anything since dinner at La Bodega in Bangsar on Monday, the night before he was remanded.
He had changed out of the pale yellow shirt he'd worn since being charged and into a black tee and over it donned a bright yellow “Justice” T-shirt given by a supporter. Looking visibly weakened, Raja Petra denied he had gone on a hunger strike as reported.
“I was not on a hunger strike but I refused to eat the prison food. Why should I eat? The prison food is paid for by the rakyat's money. I'm not going to eat the rakyat's money,” he reasoned.
Despite entreaties from his wife and supporters who had run a “Walk With RPK” campaign to collect funds to post his RM5,000 bail, Raja Petra had resolved to remain under custody until his trial in October.
His resolve included an adamant refusal to drink even a sip of water, to meet with anyone until his trial and to post the RM5,000 bail, which is the maximum that can be imposed for a crime punishable with a fine of RM5,000 or 3 years’ imprisonment or both.
Contacted over the phone later, Raja Petra, who had just breakfasted with his wife at the PJ Hilton, explained his about-turn over refusing bail.
He had refused to post bail because he believed he had done nothing wrong and therefore did not deserve to be detained.
“If you read my article and understand English, you will see that I asked questions, not made allegations.”
Recounting the events from last Friday (May 2), he said he had not been issued a warrant of arrest or a summons before being charged with an offence he steadily denies committing.
He was therefore willing to go the distance to prove his innocence according to the process of the law and wait it out inside prison. However, prison officials were worried for his safety while in their custody.
“The prison (warden) said I'm a security risk if I remain inside. They had received some reports about attempts on my life. So they assigned 2 special forces officers — sort of like the SWAT team — to guard me.
“But they said, 'Because of you, the prison is on high security alert'. They said they've 5,000-over prisoners to take care of inside and 600-over personnel but anyone could be bought over. A small packet of tobacco could buy my life with some prisoners. They said they didn't know who this Azilah and Sirul may have bought off,” he added.
When he was taken into Sungai Buloh, he had landed in the same prison block as Azilah Hadri and Sirul Azhar Umar, the 2 policemen who have been charged with Abdul Razak Baginda for the murder of Altantuya Shaaribuu. He heard some people shouting “Watch your back” but did not recognise them.
The prison guard who accompanied him informed him that they were Azilah and Sirul and had apparently reported the incident to his supervisors.
“The prison officers were very nice. (They performed) above and beyond their scope of work like calling my wife and speaking to her to convince me to go out. I could see they were genuinely worried for me. I could see they had a job to do. I could see the prison officials were not the enemy.
"I was not worried inside. But the prison guys pleaded with me, 'Please go',” said Raja Petra, adding that one of the senior prison officers, whom he did not want to name, had also told him that he (the officer) had read his articles and sympathised.
“He told me, 'Please go home and write. I would like to read more',” recounted Raja Petra. He claimed that some of his fellow prisoners had also approached him to ask for his autograph. He was pleased that what he wrote had reached deep inside such places and is one of the many factors that motivate him to do what he does.
He elaborated that he had put himself on the line not for any politically-driven agenda but because he had had personally met Altantuya's father, Shaaribuu Setev, and empathised with man's anguish.
“I looked at his face, I looked into his eyes. He has been very patient. I have 2 lovely daughters myself. If someone had shot them and blown them up, I don't think I could have been as patient. I'd probably have done something suicidal,” he remarked.