A couple in Malaysia who gained notoriety for their sexually explicit blog has been charged with sedition, after posting a Ramadan greeting on Facebook which led to public outrage.
Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee on Thursday pleaded not guilty in a Kuala Lumpur district court, where they faced charges for distributing or publishing "seditious" content. Bail was denied, so the couple will remain in jail until the next court date which is set for August 23. If found guilty of sedition, they face a jail term of up to three years.
According to court officials, the bloggers also face other charges of causing disharmony on religious grounds and possessing or producing obscene content, which can lead to a jail term of up to five years.
The couple angered many after posting a photo, marking the start of the Muslim Ramadan fasting month, of the pair eating pork--a meat which is forbidden in Islam. The photo included a hala logo used to indicate foods certified and permitted to be consumed by Muslims.
Following a public outcry, the duo apologized but Malaysia's Umno Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin on Monday rejected the apology and called for the bloggers to be punished. The country's prime minister, Najib Razak, also issued a rebuke. "The insolent and impudent act by the young couple who insulted Islam showed that freedom of expression and irresponsible opinion can jeopardize the community," he said, in a report by The Star.
Najib also took the opportunity to highlight a new law the Malaysian government was looking to introduce to replace the current sedition act, but which had been criticized as a way to stifle political dissent.
Tan and Lee first gained notoriety last year when the bloggers posted photographs and videos of their sexual exploits, including close-ups of their genitals. Both are Malaysians, but Tan is a former law student on Asean scholarship at the National University of Singapore, which terminated his scholarship following the public outrage over their blog.