The Attorney-General’s Chambers (AGC) has rejected Sarawak Report founder and editor Clare Rewcastle-Brown’s bid to have a criminal defamation charge against her withdrawn
Rewcastle-Brown’s counsel Guok Ngek Seong today confirmed with Malaysiakini the letter of representation dated March 8 in relation to the case involving Terengganu Sultanah Nur Zahirah had been rejected.
Under the law in relation to a letter of representation, an accused person can propose other ways to resolve the matter such as the withdrawal of the charge or for a lesser charge to be put forward.
According to a letter from the AGC to her counsel dated March 27, the chambers stated that the letter of representation is denied as there is sufficient evidence to maintain the charge still pending at the Magistrate’s Court in Kuala Terengganu.
Sarawak Report’s alleged crime in this matter, that of criminal defamation, does not exist as a crime in the UK where the editor resides. It was struck off the statute books after no one was charged with it for over a hundred years, given its conflict with freedom of expression.
Meanwhile, a civil court in Malaysia has found there is no case to answer over an identical complaint brought by the same Sultanah of Terengganu, whom the judge ruled had not been defamed by the sentence complained of in the book The Sarawak Report.
Indeed, during her own evidence at the trial the Sultanah admitted that very same words are not at all defamatory of her sister in law, whose name has replaced hers in the corrected version of the book as being a former acquaintance of Jho Low.
How could an identical sentence defame her but not her royal sister in law, one has to ask?
Yet there remains extant a warrant for this editor’s arrest, allegedly issued for not turning up at Terengganu Magistrate’s court to face charges laid in absentia and without her knowledge back in September 2021. The AG has now made clear he refuses to drop that warrant or the charges.
This despite the fact that no notice was provided either that police wished to question her on the matter (again) or that she had been charged or of the court date in September 2021, during the height of the Covid restrictions when there was a two week quarantine period in place for travellers from the UK.
It is not as though prosecutors were unaware of how to contact the editor of Sarawak Report. She had already given evidence on the matter at Bukit Aman police headquarters three years previously in 2018, fully cooperating with their questions about the Sultana’s original police report.
Indeed, Bukit Aman police officers were in touch some weeks before they laid their charges, texting her personal mobile only to casually ask if she was planning on visiting Malaysia?
They made no mention of any plans to charge her over the alleged criminal libel which they had filed under No Further Action back in 2018.
The answer was no, the author had no plans to visit Malaysia during Covid. She was left none the wiser about having been charged in absentia or about a date having been fixed for her to make her plea somewhere in Terengganu.
If Sarawak Report had been given the notice of the charges and the hearing, which legally is her due, then she would have ensured attendance at the Terengganu court. However, she was not informed, despite the fact that prosecutors and police all knew how to contact her.
Despite this glaring failure, an arrest warrant and highly unusual WANTED notice were issued for the very reason she had not appeared at a hearing no one had informed her was taking place – on the other side of the planet from where she lives and during the Covid 19 pandemic, three years after the original police report.
The same prosecutors even applied to INTERPOL for an international arrest and extradition warrant, calling the UK citizen a fugitive for not being in Terengganu to hear the charges no one had warned her had been made.
Given the present AG continues to refuse to drop this nonsense, despite the failure of the case to make progress even in a civil court, Sarawak Report requests that his chambers (or at least somebody) inform her of the date when this ‘pending’ matter is next due to arise in the Terengganu local court so that she can come to make her Not Guilty plea in person.
They know perfectly well how to make contact and have done so on several occasions in the past.
Should authorities in Malaysia then seek to arrest the journalist for attempting to make the required appearance and to cooperate, now that the situation has become known to her, after years of dithering and mishandling by them, they should be prepared to explain their actions to a number of parties who are likely to take up an interest in Malaysia’s conduct of this affair.
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