PETALING JAYA: Clare Rewcastle Brown says she feels “embarrassed for Malaysia” after a Terengganu court sentenced her in absentia to two years in jail today.
Saying she was unaware of the case, the Sarawak Report editor said the jail sentence for criminal defamation imposed on her was political in nature.
“Maybe they want to get me on Interpol’s Red Notice list for the third time,” she told FMT, referring to a request for law enforcement authorities worldwide to locate and arrest a person.
Earlier today, the New Straits Times reported that the Kuala Terengganu magistrates’ court had convicted Rewcastle Brown in her absence for defaming Sultanah Nur Zahirah of Terengganu.
Magistrate Nik Tarmizie Nik Shukri ordered the sentence to start today.
Rewcastle Brown was found to have defamed the sultanah in a book titled “The Sarawak Report – The Inside Story of the 1MDB Expose”.
The sultanah claimed Rewcastle Brown’s book implied that she was a close associate of Low Taek Jho, or Jho Low, and that she had helped him obtain an advisory position in Terengganu Investment Authority, before it became 1MDB.
Rewcastle Brown, however, said the first time she heard about the criminal defamation case was when an arrest warrant was issued against her in September 2021. The warrant lapsed in May last year.
She said neither she nor her lawyers were informed of any hearing. She also said that she was never formally charged.
The timing of the prison sentence could not come at a worse time for Malaysia, she said.
“This ruling draws attention to the fact that I had once exposed kleptocracy in Malaysia,” Rewcastle Brown said, referring to her book.
“And it comes days after Najib Razak’s sentence was reduced. I feel embarrassed for Malaysia.”
The former prime minister, who was at the centre of the scandal, had his 12-year sentence halved to six years last week. He also had his fine reduced from RM210 million to RM50 million.
In 2018, Sultanah Nur Zahirah filed a defamation suit against Rewcastle Brown, publisher Chong Ton Sin and printer Vinlin Press Sdn Bhd, claiming the writer had made a disparaging statement in the book.
Last December, the Court of Appeal awarded the sultanah RM300,000 in damages, holding Rewcastle Brown, Chong and Vinlin Press liable for defamation.