KUALA LUMPUR • A Malaysian has been jailed for 10 years, and three others charged over insults against Islam and Prophet Muhammad on social media, the police said yesterday.
The sentence is believed to be the harshest such penalty on record in the Muslim-majority country, where concerns over racial and religious tensions have grown in recent months.
Inspector-General of Police Mohamad Fuzi Harun said in a statement that the person, who was not identified, had pleaded guilty to 10 charges of misusing communication networks. The offence carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail or a fine of up to RM50,000 (S$16,600), or both.
The sentences were meted out consecutively, Tan Sri Mohamad Fuzi said.
Utusan Malaysia newspaper identified the man as 22-year old Alister Cogia from Sarawak, which used the Facebook account Ayea Yea, which has apparently been shut down.
Another social media user had also pleaded guilty and a sentencing hearing will be held tomorrow.
Two others had pleaded not guilty and were being held without bail.
All four were charged under laws against causing racial disharmony, incitement and misusing communications networks.
"The police advise the public not to abuse social media or communication networks by uploading or sharing any form of provocation that can affect religious or racial sensitivities, causing racial tensions within this country's diverse community," Mr Mohamad Fuzi said.
Last Thursday, Minister in Charge of Religious Affairs Mujahid Yusof Rawa said the Islamic Affairs Department had set up a unit to monitor writings and communications insulting Islam and Prophet Muhammad.
He said the ministry would not compromise on any acts insulting the religion and called for punishments against those found guilty of such.
Meanwhile, reacting to the sentence on Sunday (March 10), the adviser to the Democratic Action Party (DAP), MP Lim Kit Siang, described the 10-year punishment as "excessive" and said the person involved should appeal to the court for a lighter sentence.
"All Malaysians must uphold the Constitution and respect all religions in Malaysia but there must be no excessive punishments like the 10-year jail sentence by the Kuching Sessions Court for a social media holder for insulting Islam and Prophet Mohamad," said Mr Lim in his blog. The DAP is one of the four parties that make up the ruling Pakatan Harapn coalition.
"As advised by the de facto deputy law minister, Hanipa Maidin, the social media holder should appeal against the decision," Mr Lim added.