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Malaysia: Free Prisoner of Conscience Anwar Ibrahim

    Tuesday, February 17, 2015 - 15:42
    Malaysia’s highest court upheld the decision of an appeal court to overturn Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal. © Amnesty International

    On 10 February 2015 Malaysia’s Federal Court, the highest court in the country,  upheld the decision of an appeal court to overturn opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s acquittal on long-standing ‘sodomy’ charges, which date back to 2008, and sentenced him to five years in prison.

    Amnesty International believes this is a deplorable judgment, and the latest chapter in the Malaysian authorities’ relentless attempts to silence government critics. This oppressive ruling will have a chilling effect on freedom of expression in the country.  The ‘sodomy’ charges against Anwar Ibrahim have always been politically motivated, and he should be released immediately.

    Anwar Ibrahim is a prisoner of conscience – jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. Anwar Ibrahim stated that he is innocent of the charge; that it is the result of a political conspiracy to stop his political career - and that he will never surrender.  

    The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed its disappointment with the decision. Several governments, including Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and the European Union, condemned the decision. Switzerland is reported as planning to take the case to the UN Human Rights Council. 

    In Malaysia, Democratic Action Party leader Lim Kit Siang charged that Malaysia was descending into a "rogue" state.

    The attempts to silence the opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim come amidst a wider crackdown on dissenting voices in Malaysia. The authorities have over the past year made increasing use of the draconian Sedition Act to target journalists, politicians and academics they find inconvenient. This practice must end immediately.

    Please Take Action 

    Write a courteous but firm letter to Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak. 

    • Call on the authorities to release Anwar Ibrahim immediately and unconditionally and ensure that all charges against him are dropped, as he is a prisoner of conscience detained solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression;
    • Urge them to immediately repeal the Sedition Act and drop charges and repeal sentences against all those currently charged or convicted of “sedition” solely for the peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression.

    Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak                Salutation:  Dear Prime Minister
    Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
    Federal Government Administration Centre
    62502  Putrajaya

    Fax:  011 603 8888 3444

    Minister of Foreign Affairs                                        Salutation:  Dear Minister
    Y B Dato Sri Anifa Bin Aman
    Level 3 Wisma Putra Presint 2
    Federal Government Administration Centre 62602 Putrajaya

    Fax:  011 603 8889 2782


    Her Excellency Hayati Binti Ismail                         Salutation:   Your Excellency
    High Commissioner for Malaysia
    High Commission of Malaysia
    60 Boteler Street
    Ottawa, Ontario
    K1N 8Y7

    Fax:  +1 613 241 5214     


    Additional Information

    Over the past several months, the Malaysian authorities have intensified their use of the Sedition Act, a colonial-era law that criminalizes criticism of the government, to target peaceful dissidents. Two student activists were recently convicted and sentenced under the Sedition Act. On 19 September 2014 , Adam Adli was sentenced to one year in prison, while Safwan Anang was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment on 5 September. Since August 2014, at least eight people  have been charged with making “seditious” statements under the Act.

    On 22 September 2014, police in Malaysia announced that they were re-opening a sedition investigation relating to a speech given by opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim during a political rally in March 2011 in which he criticized the government.
    Amnesty International has serious concerns about the Sedition Act, which criminalizes a wide array of acts, including those “with a tendency to excite disaffection against any Ruler or government” or to “question any matter” protected by the Constitution. Those found guilty can face three years in prison, be fined up to 5,000 Malaysian Ringgit (approximately US$1,570) or both. The Sedition Act does not comply with international human rights law and standards, and violates the right to freedom of expression, which is enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and also guaranteed in Article 10 of the Malaysian Constitution.

    Amnesty International is also concerned about persistent reports of torture and other ill-treatment of those detained in Malaysia, which in some cases have resulted in deaths in custody. The country is bound by rules of customary international law which prohibit torture and other ill-treatment in all circumstances.