Malaysian police have obtained an arrest warrant for the founder of London-based Sarawak Report for allegedly spreading falsehoods and committing an act "detrimental to parliamentary democracy".
The move came after the Malaysian authorities warned days earlier that they would use the full force of the law against Mrs Clare Rewcastle- Brown, whom they accused of being part of an "evil" plot to topple Prime Minister Najib Razak.
The police statement said the warrant was issued for offences committed under the Penal Code. These fall under Section 124B, which covers activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy and come with up to 20 years' jail, and also Section 124I, which relates to the dissemination of false reports likely to cause public alarm. Those found guilty can be jailed for up to five years.
"We will proceed with the applications to place her on the Aseanapol wanted list as well as the Interpol red notice," said the Criminal Investigation Department's director Mohmad Salleh, who signed off on the statement.
Whistle-blower website Sarawak Report had been publishing articles alleging graft and mismanagement by Malaysia's debt-laden state investment fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB). Last Thursday, it published purported graft charge sheets against the Prime Minister and claimed Attorney- General Abdul Gani Patail was sacked just as he was about to bring graft charges against Datuk Seri Najib.
The Malaysian authorities had earlier blocked access to the website for reporting on what they called "unverified content".
Mrs Rewcastle-Brown told The Straits Times yesterday she was "not in the least bit worried" about the arrest warrant and that Malaysia would "get egg on its face" if it attempted to get an extradition order. She also refuted all the accusations and challenged the Malaysian authorities to prove her wrong.
"If they say my documents are false, they can easily take me to court. If I'm lying, it should be very easy to prove me wrong," she said.
For Malaysia to extradite someone from Britain, it needs to make a request to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. A British court will hear the request before the extradition can be granted.
The arrest warrant comes a week after Mr Najib sacked senior party leaders from his Cabinet and replaced the Attorney-General, in a move that analysts saw as quelling internal dissent.
"Now that the house is in order, they're going all out against anyone challenging the official narrative, and Sarawak Report has been one of the most effective," said political analyst Wan Saiful Wan Jan.
But pockets of opposition remain. In a Facebook post yesterday, Johor Menteri Besar Khaled Nordin urged Umno members not to remain silent when corruption takes root in the party, in a veiled swipe at Mr Najib. "Umno cannot keep quiet when the party no longer champions the cause of Malays, but is instead used to defend a few in the name of loyalty or discipline in adhering to leaders," he said.
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