Conviction of Anwar Ibrahim “a new low for Malaysian justice”

Paris, Kuala Lumpur, 7 March, 2014 — FIDH and its member organization Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) condemn in the strongest possible terms today’s decision by the Court of Appeals in Putrajaya to overturn the High Court’s acquittal of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim of sodomy charges. The court sentenced Anwar to five years in prison and set bail at 10,000 Ringgit (2,200 Euros).

“The endless judicial persecution of Anwar Ibrahim is an intolerable blot on the Malaysian judiciary,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji. “Today’s shocking conviction of Anwar Ibrahim is the latest chapter of the ruling coalition’s political vendetta against him which has been going on for more than 15 years.”

The court upheld a government appeal and found Anwar guilty on charges of sodomizing his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan on 26 June, 2008. On 9 January, 2012, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found Anwar not guilty based on tainted DNA evidence presented by the prosecution. The Court of Appeals ruled that the trial judge erred in finding that the chain of custody had been broken and that the integrity of the samples had been compromised.

“Today’s verdict is a new low for Malaysian justice. The manner in which the trial was rushed and the sentencing expedited are designed to remove Anwar from Malaysia’s political scene and confirm public speculation that the trial is politically motivated,” said SUARAM Executive Director Yap Swee Seng.

Today’s sentence prevents Anwar from running in the by-election for the Selangor State Assembly seat of Kajang. The Kajang by-election, scheduled for 23 March, could have paved the way for Anwar to become Chief Minister of Selangor State, Malaysia’s richest and most populous state.

FIDH and SUARAM urge Malaysia to respect international standards guaranteeing fair trial, including the right to be heard by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal, as prescribed by Article 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Court must dismiss politically-motivated case against Anwar Ibrahim

FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

Joint Press Release

Kuala Lumpur, Paris, 5 March, 2014 – Malaysia’s Court of Appeals must dismiss the politically-motivated case against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim, FIDH and its member organization Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM) said today. The next appeal hearing will be held on 6-7 March in Putrajaya.

“This trial is clearly politically motivated to rebuff the most serious political challenge posed to the alliance that has ruled Malaysia since its independence,” said SUARAM Executive Director Yap Swee Seng. “The prosecution has expedited proceedings in an apparent attempt to prevent Anwar Ibrahim from running for the post of Chief Minister of Malaysia’s richest and most populous state,” Mr Yap added.

On 28 January, Anwar announced he would run in the by-election for the Selangor State Assembly seat of Kajang. By becoming a State Assembly MP, Anwar would be eligible to be nominated for the position of Chief Minister of Selangor State. The Kajang by-election is scheduled for 23 March with the closing date for candidates to file their nomination papers being 11 March. If the Court of Appeals upholds the prosecution’s appeal, it could immediately sentence Anwar to a jail term which would result in his inability to run in the by-election.

On 6-7 March, the Court of Appeals in the administrative capital of Putrajaya will hear the prosecution’s appeal against Anwar’s acquittal of charges that he allegedly sodomized his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan on 26 June, 2008. On 9 January, 2012, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found Anwar not guilty based on tainted DNA evidence presented by the prosecution. The prosecution appealed the High Court’s verdict to the Court of Appeal.

In coordination with FIDH, Danthong Breen, senior advisor for the Union for Civil Liberty (UCL), FIDH member organization in Thailand, attended the previous appeal hearing as an independent observer on 12 February. “The credibility of the DNA samples is the prosecution’s last straw. The prosecution’s goal is to show the DNA evidence was not compromised. In response, the defense argues that DNA contamination did occur when the samples were in the custody of former police officer Jude Pereira. This is why the defense sought to recall Pereira as a witness to submit him to further questioning and show that he failed to observe the protocol of custody, including unexplained delays in the procurement and delivery of DNA samples,” explained Mr. Breen. On 4 March, the Federal Court rejected Anwar’s petition to recall Jude Pereira as a witness.

During the 12 February hearing, Anwar’s legal team also attempted to disqualify Muhammad Shafee Abdullah from leading the prosecution in the appeal trial for the third time since November 2013. Shafee is a lawyer associated with United Malays National Organization (UMNO), Malaysia’s ruling party. Anwar’s team sought to bar Shafee on grounds that in October 2012 the Bar Council had found him guilty of misconduct for violating the Legal Profession Publicity Rules 2001 and fined him 5,000 ringgit (US$1,500). On 3 March 2014, the Court of Appeals ruled that Muhammad Shafee Abdullah was fit to be part of the prosecution team in the appeal trial. The court dismissed Anwar’s petition as “made to delay the government’s appeal” and “an abuse of process.”

“The judgment of Anwar’s case will be a litmus test for the independence of the judiciary in Malaysia. The Court of Appeals must uphold international standards of fair trial come this 6-7 March,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.

Three deaths in three months – Government fails to stop death in custody

The numbers of custodial death continues to rise as we just stepped into the month of March. Ramasamy Nagu, was found dead at the Bayan Baru police lock up in Penang, as reported by the online news portal fz.com.

According to SUARAM’s monitoring of custodial deaths, this is the third death in the year of 2014, as illustrated below:

Date Name Place
10 February 2014 A. Punniyanathan Nibong Tebal Police Station
18 February 2014 J. Kulanthangam Dang Wangi Police Station
1 March 2014 Ramasamy Nagu Bayan Baru Police Station

The irony of the death of Ramasamy Nagu is that the Bayan Baru centralised police lock-up was established last year after huge public outcry on continuation of deaths in police custody. The sophisticated centre was believed to be built to reduce incidents of custodial deaths. Unfortunately, the death of Ramasamy Nagu has proven otherwise.

Instead of investigating why the centralised police lock-up failed in stopping death in custody, the Barat Daya District OCPD Supt Lai Fa Hin, in a press statement, chose to highlight that Ramasamy Nagu’s family confirmed that Ramasamy Nagu was a drug addict and that even Ramasamy’s brother admitted that Ramasamy was a hardcore addict.” (Fz.com) Brandishing Ramasamy as hardcore addict does not absolve the duty of the police to ensure the well being of those held under their custody.

According to the Lockup Rules 1958, police officer on duty has the responsibility to ensure the health of detainees and the conditions of lockup in the station. The said officer is also required to record in details every action and tasks performed on a daily basis.

It is also unprofessional for the OCPD to assert that there were no elements of crime involved in the death of Ramasamy even before an inquest is conducted on the custodial death. It is the job of the Magistrate to determine the actual cause of death of Ramasamy and not the police themselves.

SUARAM maintains that any investigation on police’s misconducts must be performed by an independent and external body. We demand for an inquest on the death of Ramasamy Nagu to be initiated immediately.

Suaram reiterate our calls to the Home Miniter, Datuk Zahid Hamidi, to establish a permanent coroner’s court to scrutinize all death in custody cases as he had promised in June 2013. We call on the government to legislate anti-torture law to outlaw torture in order to end torture practices by law enforcement agencies.

Conviction of Karpal Singh a setback for the rule of law and freedom of expression

FIDH – International Federation for Human Rights
Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)

Joint Press Release

Paris, Kuala Lumpur, February 24, 2014 –The Malaysian government must stop using colonial-era repressive laws to harass political opposition leaders, FIDH and its member organization SUARAM said today.

On February 21, 2014, the Kuala Lumpur High Court found Democratic Action Party (DAP) Chairman Karpal Singh guilty under Section 4(1) (b) of the 1948 Sedition Law. The case stemmed from a press conference on February 6, 2009, in which Karpal Singh questioned the decision of Sultan of Perak State Azlan Shah to fire the then Chief Minister Mohammad Nizar Jamaluddin.

“Under the rule of law, no one is above the law. A decision of the monarch can be scrutinized in a judicial process under a constitutional monarchy system. Mr. Karpal Singh has been prosecuted for merely expressing a legal opinion. This is clearly inconsistent with international standards for freedom of opinion and expression, including Article 19 of the International Declaration of Human Rights,” said FIDH President Karim Lahidji.1 “Malaysia must urgently repeal its outdated Sedition Law and all the other draconian laws inherited by the British colonial administration,” he urged.

The court set the sentencing for March 7. Singh, 73, faces up to three years in prison or a 5,000 ringgit (US$1,515) fine or both. He also risks losing his parliamentary seat because the Malaysian Constitution stipulates that an MP must be removed from office if fined more than 2,000 ringgit or jailed for a term exceeding one year.

“The Malaysian government’s increasing use of draconian legislation to harass and silence political opponents and human rights defenders is a matter of grave concern,” said SUARAM Executive Director Yap Swee Seng. “Over 18 months ago, Prime Minister Najib Razak announced that the Sedition Law would be abolished. But as his government struggles to maintain its shaky grip on power, Najib has failed to keep his promise. Instead, Najib’s administration has stepped up prosecutions of opposition leaders under this law,” Mr. Yap added.

Karpal Singh was initially acquitted of sedition charges on June 11, 2010. However, following an appeal by the prosecution, on January 20, 2012, the Court of Appeals reversed the acquittal and ordered Karpal Singh to stand trial on the original charges.

Another member of Malaysia opposition, Anwar Ibrahim, is currently on trial on politically motivated charges under another colonial-era law. Anwar has been charged under Section 377 of the Malaysian Criminal Code, which criminalizes sex between adult men. Karpal Singh represented Anwar during the latter’s first and second sodomy trials.

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1 Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) states: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”