updated 11/7/2008 6:07:47 AM ET 2008-11-07T11:07:47

Malaysian authorities freed the editor of an anti-government news Web site Friday after a court decided that his arrest under a law allowing indefinite detention was illegal.

High Court Justice Syed Ahmad Helmy Syed Ahmad ruled that the home minister acted outside his powers in having Raja Petra Kamaruddin detained Sept. 12 for allegedly causing ethnic tensions.

Five hours later, a weary-looking Raja Petra was brought from a prison camp in northern Malaysia to the court in Shah Alam city near Kuala Lumpur, where he embraced his tearful wife and daughters after being formally released.

"I'm really glad it's over. I'm really tired. The judge's decision proves there is no justification for my detention," Raja Petra told reporters.

The government has accused Raja Petra, 58, of threatening public security and causing ethnic tension by publishing writings that ridiculed Islam in the Muslim-majority country.

He has infuriated authorities by publishing numerous claims of alleged wrongdoing by government leaders on his highly popular Web site, Malaysia Today. The government has denounced most of Raja Petra's allegations as lies.

He is also on trial in a separate case in which he has been accused of sedition by implying that Deputy Prime Minister Najib Razak was involved in the murder of a Mongolian woman. If convicted, he faces up to three years in jail.

Government popularity hits all-time role
The legal controversies come at a time when the government's popularity has hit an all-time low and the ruling party is riven with factional fighting.

Raja Petra's arrest was condemned by civic groups, lawyers and online commentators.

His lawyer, Malik Imtiaz Sarwar, quoted the judge who ordered his release as saying that the grounds given for his detention were insufficient and the arrest under the Internal Security Act was unlawful.

The act allows imprisonment without charge for an initial two-year period, with indefinite extensions possible.

The court order was "definitely a wonderful step in terms of civil liberties in Malaysia," Malik Imtiaz said.

It was not the first time a court has ordered the release of detainees under the act, and the ruling does not prevent the government from rearresting Raja Petra. The government can also appeal the ruling.

Some of Malaysia's most popular blogs offer strong anti-government commentaries and present themselves as a substitute for mainstream media, which are controlled by political parties or closely linked to them.

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