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Police release defiant Malaysian cartoonist: lawyer

world Updated: Sep 26, 2010 13:15 IST

Malaysian police have released a controversial political cartoonist after arresting him under a harsh sedition law, his lawyer said on Sunday, following an outcry from a rights group.



Zulkifli Anwar Ulhaque -- better known as Zunar -- works for the news website Malaysiakini and uses cartoons to illustrate controversial issues such as police shootings and the sodomy trial of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim.



"Zunar was released late Saturday on bail," lawyer Fadiah Nadwa Fikri told AFP. "He has to report back to the police on October 7. Zunar is being investigated under the Sedition Act."



He was arrested by police Friday just hours before he was due to launch his new book,

Cartoon-O-Phobia.

Police also seized 70 copies of the book.



Despite being held by police for about 24 hours and facing a possible jail sentence if convicted, Zunar said his brief incarceration has energised him to draw more cartoons about Prime Minister Najib Razak and Najib's government.



"I see my arrest as an attempt to stop me from drawing. But I will continue to draw. The arrest has made me more determined than ever to draw cartoons on Najib and his cabinet," he said.



S. Arulchelvan, a member of the rights group Voice of the Malaysian People, had criticised the arrest as an abuse of power and said it was an attempt to sabotage Zunar's book launch.



The 80-page

Cartoon-O-Phobia

has a caricature of Najib's wife on its front cover and contains cartoons that touch on numerous controversial issues.



Najib, who took office in the mainly Muslim country in April last year, had promised to promote openness and transparency but has since faced accusations that his administration is trying to silence critics.



Major newspapers and broadcasters are closely linked with the ruling coalition, so the Internet has become a lively forum for dissent and debate.



Unlike the mainstream press, the web and online media in Malaysia have remained relatively free, despite occasional raids, bans and government criticism.