Zunar Wins His Suit Against The Government And The Police After Fighting For 7 Years

The cartoonist has been awarded RM18,000 over damaged artwork.

Cover image via Al Jazeera

It's not every day that you sue the government and come out victorious. But that's exactly what happened on Tuesday, 11 April.

In a Consent Judgement recorded by Deputy Registrar K. Pavani at the Kuala Lumpur High Court, the Government and the police have been ordered to pay RM18,000 in damages to cartoonist Zunar for illegally confiscating his drawings depicting the Prime Minister Najib Razak and his wife Rosmah Mansoor.

Here's what had happened:

A team of police, led by ASP A. Arikrishna, raided Zunar office at about 4pm on 24 September 2010 and seized 66 books titled Cartoon-O-Phobia and drawings.

The cartoonist, whose real name is Zulkiflee Anwar Haque, was also arrested.

Image via NST

About 9 months later, on 15 June 2011, Zunar sued ASP A. Arikrishna, ASP Marina Hashim, the then IGP Tan Sri Ismail Omar, the Home Ministry and the Government.

Zunar claimed that his arrest and detention was illegal and unconstitutional.

In his statement of claim, Zunar had questioned the basis for his arrest and detention and confiscation of his books and painting, alleging that the action was unlawful under the Federal Constitution and an attempt to sabotage the launch of his book.

However, in 2012, while a High Court ruled that his arrest and detention were lawful, it also ruled that the seizure of his 66 books and the cartoons was unlawful and ordered that they be returned to Zunar.

While Zunar 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.

Speaking about the ruling was announced, Zunar said it is not about the quantum of damages but a lesson to the police and the Government that using criminal law to confiscate cartoon books and artwork and hold on to them for five years was unacceptable

Zunar, who has been arrested twice since November 2016 over allegations of sedition for cartoons critical of the Government and judiciary, also reminded the police to take care of materials seized during those arrests.

"Police had confiscated 40 pieces of my artwork in Penang and the 1,300 books seized in KL must be kept in good condition or they will face the same consequences. This is a violation of the rights of cartoonists. We have rights, too," he said.

"I will take legal action for the police to return them as they are. They have to be responsible for damages if any," Zunar added.

Last year in Switzerland, Zunar was bestowed with the '2016 Cartooning for Peace Award'. In commemoration of which, 10 of his giant-size cartoons were publically exhibited at the lac de Genève:

You may be interested in: