Malaysian Blogger Disputes Arrest

Tan '03-'04 says police violated due process standards

One week after he was arrested for possessing secret documents that reportedly revealed corruption in the Malaysian government, Nathaniel J. Tan ’03-’04 said on his blog Thursday that “absolutely nothing even remotely resembling proof" existed to justify his arrest.

Tan, arrested on the afternoon of July 13 by Malaysian police, was released last Tuesday after four days of detention under accusations of violating the Official Secrets Act, according to news reports. The act prohibits the distribution, possession, or collection of any information dubbed as an official secret by any public officer, according to Malaysia Today, a prominent news blog in the country. The act is punishable by up to seven years in prison.

Police reportedly arrested Tan, 27, in connection with a comment made on one of his blog posts in February. The anonymous comment suggested that Malaysian Deputy Internal Security Minister Johari Baharom, the subject of a now-closed investigation into accusations of corruption, bribed officials into dropping the inquiry. Tan says he had nothing to do with the comment.

Tan criticized the police's handling of his arrest on his blog, suggesting that officers violated standards of due process.

“Throughout my detention,” he wrote, “the police employed various questioning strategies in what struck me as a concerted attempt to make me admit to things that I had not done.”

He added: "Police made every possible effort to block me from consulting with my lawyers, denying me extremely basic human rights connected to judicial due process.”

Attempts to reach Malaysian police on Friday were unsuccessful.

Tan is the secretary for the Foundation For the Future, a Beirut-based grant-making organization which strives to support democracy in the Middle East.

The foundation is headed by former top Malaysian Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim, who spent five years in prison on corruption charges and was later convicted of sodomy before the Malaysian Supreme Court overturned the second conviction, prompting his release in September 2004. Both Tan and Ibrahim are members of the People’s Justice Party, which has clashed with Malaysia’s largest political party, the United Malays National Organization.

At Harvard, Tan lived in the Dudley Co-op, where Dean of Freshman Thomas A. Dingman ’67 served as his senior tutor.

Dingman told The Crimson Monday that he remembered Tan favorably.

“I can’t believe that he’s out creating trouble for Malaysia,” Dingman said.

In an e-mail to The Crimson, Tan thanked Harvard affiliates who offered their support for him.

“I wonder if I’ve finally made Harvard proud,” he wrote, “just a little bit.”

—Staff writer Malcom A. Glenn can be reached at mglenn@fas.harvard.edu.