SHAH ALAM, Sept 9 – Six men were charged under the Sedition Act this morning for being part of the cow head protest against the construction of a Hindu temple, in a case that has taken on wider political ramifications and provoked debate about the state of race relations in Malaysia.
They were also charged with another six men for taking part in an illegal assembly.
Officials said five of the six men charged for sedition were residents of the Section 23 neighbourhood. Of the six others facing illegal assembly charges, only one of them is a Section 23 resident.
On Aug 28, more than 50 people claiming to be residents of Section 23 here marched from the state mosque to the state secretariat to protest the relocation of a 150-year old temple to their neighbourhood.
They threatened bloodshed, and kicked and spat at a cow’s head, drawing widespread public condemnation because the animal is considered sacred by Hindus.
Federal leaders had initially sought to play down the issue, with Home Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein even meeting the protestors and speaking up for them.
Many of the residents who opposed the temple could come up with little justification for their opposition, except to say that it offended their Muslim sensitivities.
But the situation came to a head when a group of Malay-Muslim men disrupted a town hall meeting with residents organised by the state government.
The pandemonium that erupted at the town hall meeting saw heated arguments between Malay and Indian neighbours.
This week the government bowed to pressure and decided to prosecute some of the protestors.
The six charged for sedition this morning pleaded not guilty, and bail was set at RM4,000 each.
They will next appear in court on Oct 21 for their cases to be mentioned.
Among the six are Mohd Azmir Mohd Zin, 35, Ahmad Suhairi Zakaria, 30, Mohd Hilmi Ni, 40, all three whom were alleged to have carrying the cow’s head and stepping on it.
Eyzra Ezhar Ramlz, 31, is alleged to have helped bring the cow’s head.
Ibrahim Sabri, 42, and Ahmad Mahayuddhn Abd Manaf, 36, are alleged to have stepped on the cow’s head.
These six men were later charged together with six other men for participating in an illegal assembly.
All 12 men claimed trial, and bail was set at RM300 each for those were also facing sedition charges, and RM500 each for those only answering illegal assembly charges.
The six who were only charged for illegal assembly are Mohd Jurit Ramli, 39, Mohammad Nordin Zakaria, 46, Rahimuddin Md Harun, 39, Jamil Mohamad Isa, 40 Azari Shaari, 39, and Jainuddin @ Zainuddin Md Yusuff, 67.