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The Malaysian government has dropped sedition charges against Karpal Singh, the first lawyer ever to be prosecuted for statements made during a trial
The longstanding charges related to Singh's defence of the deposed Malaysian deputy prime minister, but were dropped last week after pressure from the International Bar Association (IBA) and other legal organisations. Singh defended former deputy prime minister Anwar Ibrahim in a 1999 trial for sodomy and corruption. Ibrahim's supporters claimed that he was a convenient scapegoat when the Asian crisis hit Malaysia and the prime minister controversially pegged the Malaysian ringit to the dollar in order to stabilise the economy. Anwar, who was viewed by some as a natural successor to the prime minister, was sacked as finance minister and dragged into court on what his supporters said were trumped-up charges. In his defence of Ibrahim, Singh told the court: "It could well be that someone out there wants to get rid of him even to the extent of murder... I suspect that people in high places are responsible for the situation."
"It could well be that someone out there wants to get rid of him... even to the extent of murder" Karpal Singh
Singh was charged under the 1948 Sedition Act, which allows a maximum penalty of three years imprisonment. The IBA and other legal organisations have mounted sustained pressure on the Malaysian government to grant Singh a fair trial. The IBA, which has welcomed the attorney-general's decision to drop the charges, sent trial observers to earlier hearings in May and October.