Malaysia: End persecution of Anwar Ibrahim and other government critics

The Malaysian authorities should end their politically motivated persecution of government critics including Anwar Ibrahim, Amnesty International said ahead of the final decision in the long-standing ‘sodomy’ case against the opposition leader. “The ‘sodomy’ charges against Anwar Ibrahim are clearly politically motivated and a blatant attempt by the Malaysian authorities to silence and undermine a critical voice. If Anwar Ibrahim is jailed, Amnesty International will consider him a prisoner of conscience,” said Richard Bennett, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director. “Tomorrow’s decision also has to be seen in the context of a wider clampdown on critics in Malaysia. Over the past months, the authorities have increasingly made use of draconian laws to silence opposition voices and other activists – this must end.”   The “sodomy” case against Anwar Ibrahim, the leader of the opposition People’s Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat), began in 2008. 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 opposition leader has been on bail ever since and appealed the decision to the Federal Court, the highest court in the country, which will make its final decision on 28-29 October. If found guilty, Anwar Ibrahim could face a jail term. “Tomorrow the Federal Court has an opportunity to demonstrate the independence of the Malaysian judiciary from political interference,” said Richard Bennett. Wider crackdown This year the government has made increasing use of another colonial-era piece of legislation that the authorities use to charge and imprison critics – the Sedition Act. Two people have been convicted of sedition this year, with at least a dozen others currently facing charges solely for peacefully expressing their views. Scores more have been investigated for “seditious” activities – Anwar Ibrahim himself was placed under investigation for sedition in September. In July 2012 Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak publically committed to repealing the law stating that it represented “a bygone era”, but over two years later his promise remains unfulfilled. “The Malaysian government’s widespread use of the Sedition Act is not just an attempt to silence certain individuals but is creating a wider climate of fear,” said Richard Bennett. “The Prime Minister should stick to his promise – the draconian Sedition Act must be repealed or amended to bring it in line with international standards.” Repeal ‘sodomy’ law This is not the first time that Anwar Ibrahim has been jailed. 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. The criminalization of consensual sexual activity between adults – including those of the same sex – is contrary to international human rights law. “No person should be detained for consensual sex with another adult – it is not a recognisable criminal offence under international law. The ‘sodomy’ law should be removed from the books altogether,” said Richard Bennett.