Malaysia: Amnesty International Says Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Faces 'Show Trial'

Press Release
January 29, 2010

Malaysia: Amnesty International Says Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Faces 'Show Trial'

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL USA
PRESS RELEASE

Friday, January 29, 2010

Amnesty International Says Malaysian Opposition Leader Anwar Faces 'Show Trial'

(Washington, DC) Amnesty International has urged the Malaysian authorities to drop politically motivated criminal charges of sodomy against Anwar Ibrahim, the country’s opposition leader, after he today lost an appeal for access to the government’s evidence against him.

His trial is now set to begin on February 2 at the High Court. This case is the second time in 12 years that the authorities have brought such charges against the former deputy prime minister.

Following his public criticism of then-Prime Minister Mahathir Mohammed in 1998, Anwar was arrested and convicted on sodomy and corruption charges. He spent six years in solitary confinement before his conviction was overturned and he was released.

“The Malaysian authorities have resorted to the same old dirty tricks in an attempt to remove the opposition leader from politics,” said Sam Zarifi, Asia-Pacific director at Amnesty International. “Malaysia’s judiciary should throw out these charges.”

Amnesty International considered Anwar Ibrahim a prisoner of conscience before his release in 2004.

For five years, Anwar was banned from seeking public office as a result of his conviction on corruption charges. After the ban expired in April 2008, he won a parliamentary seat on August 26, 2008 and become opposition leader as head of the People’s Justice Party (Parti Keadilan Rakyat).

But one month before his election, on July 17, 2008, Anwar was again arrested on charges that he had committed sodomy with a male former aide. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison and loss of political office.

The criminal charge of sodomy against Anwar, under Section 377B of the Penal Code, is at odds with international human rights standards. This British colonial-era law provides for prison and whipping, a punishment that violates the international law prohibition on torture and other ill-treatment. Moreover, the U.N. Human Rights Commission in 1997 ruled that sodomy laws infringe the fundamental right to privacy.

Amnesty International is seriously concerned about fair-trial issues surrounding Anwar’s case. The prosecution’s refusal to deliver evidence to the defense at the pretrial stage infringes international fair-trial standards and Malaysian law.

“Anwar’s case has rightly raised doubts among the international community and investors about Malaysia’s commitment to justice and the rule of law,” said Zarifi.

Under Section 51A of the Malaysia’s Criminal Procedure Code, the prosecution must deliver documents and a written statement of facts favorable to the defense. The U.N. Human Rights Committee has established that the minimum facilities for fair trials “must include access to documents and other evidence which the accused requires to prepare his case.”

On January 29, however, the Malaysian Federal Court failed to uphold the prosecution’s obligation to provide access to evidence, which Anwar’s lawyers believe may help exonerate him. In an earlier decision, the Court of Appeals had termed the defense’s application for evidence a “fishing expedition.”

“The court’s decision to allow the prosecution to withhold key evidence sets a dangerous precedent for criminal cases in Malaysia,” said Zarifi. “This is a recipe for unfair trials.”

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 2.2 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public, and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

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For more information, please contact the AIUSA media office at 202-509-8634 or visit: www.amnestyusa.org