Mr Anwar began a five-year prison sentence on Tuesday after the country’s top court ruled there was overwhelming evidence showing he had sodomised a former male aide. The case was widely seen as politically motivated to eliminate any threats to the ruling coalition, whose popularity has been eroding after more than five decades of unquestioned dominance.
Police detained cartoonist Zulkiflee Anwar Alhaque, better known as Zunar, at his home late on Tuesday over a series of tweets on Mr Anwar’s case. A cartoon he posted on Twitter showed Prime Minister Najib Razak as the judge in Mr Anwar’s case. National police chief Khalid Abu Bakar also directed his men to investigate opposition politicians Nga Kor Ming and Rafizi Ramli for sedition. Mr Ming tweeted it was time for the people to oppose a cruel regime, while Mr Rafizi tweeted a cartoon of a judge wearing a white wig with the dollar sign on it.
The moves were criticised by New York-based Human Rights Watch saying it was shameful that authorities had turned peaceful criticism into a criminal act. “Clearly it is designed to intimidate and instil fear in people on social media to go silent on their views. It is a further erosion of freedom of expression in Malaysia,” said the group’s Asia deputy director Phil Robertson.
Mr Anwar was accused of sodomising Saiful Azlan, then 23, who was an aide in the opposition campaign office in 2008.