KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 24 – Amnesty International is concerned over Putrajaya’s move to reopen its three-year-old sedition probe against de facto PKR leader Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim, saying it is blatant persecution. “Anwar has long been a favourite target of authorities over the past decade,” Amnesty International’s deputy Asia-Pacific director Rupert Abbott said in a statement. “This latest sedition probe against Anwar over a speech made in March 2011 is clearly political and smacks of persecution. The investigation should be dropped immediately. “It is clearly an attempt by Putrajaya to silence and harass a critical voice.” He added that it was the latest move in a widespread crackdown on dissenter using the Sedition Act 1948.
Anwar is being investigated over a speech he gave during a political rally. He is expected to be interviewed by police on Friday. “Over the past month, Putrajaya has intensified the use of the colonial-era Sedition Act to target peaceful dissidents,” Abbott noted. “Two student activists, Muhammad Safwan Anang and Adam Adli Abd Halim, has been given custodial sentences in recent weeks.” Safwan was sentenced to 10 months’ jail, while Adam was sentenced to 12 months. In February, former DAP chairman Karpal Singh was also found guilty of sedition. He died in a road accident, pending an appeal against his conviction. Abbott said at least 15 others, including opposition lawmakers, journalists and academics were currently facing charges under the sedition act.
“The sedition act is an outdated and repressive piece of legislation that the authorities are using to target anyone who speaks out against those in power. It must be repealed immediately. “There has been a disturbing increase in the use of the sedition act over the past few months against individuals who have done nothing but peacefully express their opinions. “This crackdown is creating a climate of fear in Malaysia and must end,” he said, adding that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak had pledged to repeal the act in 2012. In 2012, Najib publicly committed to repealing the draconian law stating that it represented “a bygone era”, but Abbott said two years later, the prime minister’s promise remains unfulfilled.
Yesterday, human rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said a series of unsavoury decisions in sedition cases have shown that the judiciary was not impartial in politically motivated cases. LFL co-founder Eric Paulsen (pic, left) cited the cases against construction site supervisor, Chow Mun Fai, and Anything But Umno (ABU) activist, Ali Abdul Jalil. Although Chow had pleaded guilty to an alternate charge after initially being charged with sedition, he was still sentenced to 12 months in prison. Paulsen said the judiciary appeared to be powerless in stopping Ali from being charged repeatedly under the sedition act. “Ali has been dragged from Selayang to Shah Alam, and now to Johor Baru for Facebook postings which should be considered as the same transaction.
“He should just be tried in Kuala Lumpur or Selangor where the offences were allegedly committed and where he resides instead of being hauled up and down the length of Malaysia.” Paulsen said both Safwan and Adam had also been dealt with rather harshly and disproportionately by the judiciary. “These series of unsavoury judicial decisions shows that when it comes to politically motivated cases, the judiciary is not impartial or independent. “The only institution which stands between the public and the continued abuse of power by the police and Attorney-General’s Chambers is the judiciary. “Unfortunately, the recent decision by the judiciary does not give the public much optimism nor hope that this is the case.” Paulsen said the rampant and indiscriminate use of the sedition act is akin to Ops Lalang II where it functions as a catch-all provision, like the ISA, to target all and sundry. “Putrajaya is currently cracking down on anything that is remotely contentious, thus stifling civil liberties and creating a climate of fear.”