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Long-time Amnesty prisoner of conscience, Anwar Ibrahim is free

    May 16, 2018

    Finally! After 20 years of imprisonment Amnesty International’s prisoner of conscience and Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been released. Anwar received a royal pardon following last week’s election win for the Pakatan Harapan coalition led by Mahathir Mohamad.

    Anwar’s freedom marks a victory for humanity in Malaysia. “This day should go down as a landmark moment for human rights in the country, but the new government must not stop here. Rather, this should be the first of many more positive changes,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

    Anwar Ibrahim was a prisoner of conscience – jailed solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression. He was imprisoned twice, in 1998, after calling for political reform, then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was dismissed from government and arrested for corruption and committing ‘illegal’ homosexual acts – allegations he has always denied. In July 2008, a month before he returned to parliament in a by-election, the opposition leader was again arrested on sodomy charges.

    Amnesty International stood with this brave prisoner of conscience as he fought for his freedom since 1998. Thank you to all of those who took action by writing letters urging the Government of Malaysia to dropped charges and free Anwar.

    Background

    In 1998, after calling for political reform, then Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim was dismissed from government and arrested for corruption and committing ‘illegal’ homosexual acts – allegations he has always denied. 

    He was beaten up while in police custody and convicted for corruption in 1999 and for ‘sodomy’ in 2000. He remained imprisoned until 2004 when the “sodomy” conviction was overturned.

    As a result of that conviction, Anwar was barred from politics until 2008. That year, a month before he returned to parliament in a by-election, the opposition leader was again arrested on sodomy charges.

    The High Court cleared him of all charges in 2012, but the Court of Appeal overturned the acquittal in March this year and sentenced him to five years in prison.

    The criminalization of consensual sexual activity between adults – including those of the same sex – is contrary to international human rights law.