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Malaysian opposition lawmaker found guilty of sedition

A Malaysian court found a veteran opposition leader guilty of sedition on Friday in the latest use of a law the government had pledged to abolish in the run-up to elections last year.

KUALA LUMPUR: A Malaysian court found a veteran opposition leader guilty of sedition on Friday in the latest use of a law the government had pledged to abolish in the run-up to elections last year.

Democratic Action Party (DAP) chairman Karpal Singh slammed the Sedition Act as a "relic", and called the case against him unfair.

"It's political intimidation," Karpal, 73, told AFP.

The outspoken, wheelchair-bound parliamentarian was found guilty of insulting one of the country's nine state sultans during a tussle over political control of Perak state in 2009.

He faces up to three years in prison, with sentencing set for March 7.

The conviction, which Karpal plans to appeal, sparked further condemnation of the government's use of the decades-old Sedition Act.

Prime Minister Najib Razak had pledged to abolish the act in 2012 as part of reform promises made to halt a slide in support for his long-ruling coalition.

But after retaining power with a weak showing in 2013 polls, Najib is believed to be under pressure from disgruntled conservatives in his Muslim-ruling party to backtrack on reform.

Najib's office said the government "remains committed" to replacing the law, but gave no time frame.

"Until new legislation is in place, existing cases must be tried under existing laws," it said in a statement. "This prosecution is a matter for the courts."

Opposition-linked rights group Lawyers for Liberty issued a statement condemning the conviction and calling the sedition charge "antiquated and undemocratic".

Several other government critics are also facing sedition charges brought since Najib's reform pledge.

Karpal was deemed to have questioned the actions of Perak's sultan, who sided with the ruling coalition in a dispute over control of the state.

Malaysia forbids criticism of its revered ethnic-Malay Islamic royals.

Human Rights Watch last month accused Najib of abandoning earlier promises of reform. Najib's office responded by defending his rights record.

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