Zunar awarded RM18,000 damages

KUALA LUMPUR: The police and the government will pay RM18,000 in damages to cartoonist Zunar, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Haque (pix), over the illegal seizure of cartoon drawings or "collage" depicting the prime minister and his wife.

High Court deputy registrar K. Pavani had recorded a "consent judgment" (agreed by both parties) in her chambers, today.

"The defendants will have to pay the plaintiff (Zunar) for the illegal seizure of 66 books and cartoon drawings, RM18,000, as full and final settlement," said Zunar's lawyer Latheefa Koya, after the case.

On June 15, 2011, Zunar and his company, Sepakat Efektif Sdn Bhd, sued ASP A. Arikrishna, ASP Marina Hashim, the then inspector-general of police Tan Sri Ismail Omar, the Home Ministry and government.

In the statement of claim, Zunar said a team of police, led by Arikrishna raided his office at about 4pm on Sept 24, 2010 and seized 66 books titled Cartoon-O-Phobia and cartoon drawings. He was also arrested.

He claimed his arrest and detention was illegal and unconstitutional.

On July 31, 2012, a High Court ruled that his arrest and detention was lawful but the seizure of the 66 books and the cartoons was unlawful, and ordered that they be returned to Zunar.

He allowed damages to be assessed by a registrar.

The Court of Appeal had maintained the High Court's decision and the books were returned in 2015.

"It is not about the quantum but it is a lesson to the police and the government not to use criminal laws such as the Sedition Act to confiscate artwork and cartoon books and to keep (the books) under
custody for more than five years," said Zunar.

"It is a violation of a cartoonist's rights and freedom of expression," he said.

Currently, he said more than 40 pieces of his cartoon artwork are still being held by police in Penang following his arrest in November 2016 and another 1,300 books confiscated by the Kuala Lumpur police, also in November 2016 after his arrest.

Federal counsel Safiyyah Omar, who appeared for the prosecution, said it was a "consent judgment".