PETALING JAYA (AFP/THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - The eldest daughter of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim and Lembah Pantai Member of Parliament Nurul Izzah Anwar has been arrested under the Sedition Act. She will be detained overnight at the Jinjang police station.
The Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) vice-president was detained at the Dang Wangi police station in Kuala Lumpur at 3.30pm, soon after appearing at the station to give her statement on the March 7 “Kita Lawan” rally. Her remand hearing will take place at 10am on Tuesday.
Soon after she was arrested, an image of Ms Nurul Izzah waving to supporters from the fifth floor of the Dang Wangi police station was posted on her Facebook page, as well as an image of her hugging her children.
Ms Nurul Izzah last week read out in Parliament portions of a statement by Anwar, now in prison, in which he questioned the independence of Malaysia’s judiciary.
PKR communications director Fahmi Fadzil said Ms Nurul Izzah was under remand in relation to the speech, which she made last Tuesday in Parliament.
“The police haven't told us yet which parts of the speech are seditious or whether the entire speech is seditious,” Mr Fahmi Fadzil said when contacted. According to him, Ms Nurul Izzah has been held under Section 4(1) of the Sedition Act.
"ASP Muniandy informed me that I have been detained on orders from the D5 deputy director-general in Bukit Aman," Ms Nurul Izzah, 34, tweeted.
She also confirmed her arrest by phone to AFP while in custody. Ms Nurul Izzah became the latest nabbed in a sedition crackdown by Malaysia’s government that has seen dozens investigated, charged, or convicted over the past year, including several top opposition politicians.
“I am extremely angry, and we all should be, because as Parliament members we should be free to criticise the government of the day without reprisal,” said Ms Nurul Izzah, who also has led recent street rallies against Anwar’s conviction.
Ms Nurul Izzah had already been under police investigation for her speech, made on behalf of Anwar, who is serving a jail sentence handed down last month after losing his appeal against his sodomy conviction.
In her speech, she allegedly made seditious remarks questioning the Federal Court’s decision to jail her father. She had also said in the speech that she was fulfilling her vow to “ensure the voice of the opposition leader... echoes here and is not forgotten”.
Ms Nurul Izzah had earlier today given a statement to the police with regard to her speech and her involvement in a rally calling for Anwar's release, which was held in Kuala Lumpur earlier this month and organised by PKR's opposition Pakatan Rakyat alliance.
PKR’s Padang Serai MP N. Surendran said in a statement earlier that the sedition investigation initiated against Ms Nurul Izzah was “unconstitutional” as it interfered with the rights and privileges of Parliament.
“Article 63(2) of the Federal Constitution confers immunity from any proceedings in court for anything said by an MP in the Dewan Rakyat,” he said.
Anwar was convicted on Feb 10 of sodomising a former male aide in 2008 and sentenced to five years' jail. Anwar, who denies the charge, calls it a “political conspiracy” by the coalition in power since 1957, designed to thwart steady opposition gains in recent elections.
The authorities have warned that criticising Anwar’s jailing could bring sedition charges, and a handful of critics have already been investigated or charged.
Government opponents say the sodomy case is part of a long-running campaign to remove Anwar, who was ousted from the ruling party in a late-1990s power struggle. He later helped inspire the fractious opposition into a formidable force.
His conviction has been criticised by international human rights groups, Australia and the United States, which said it raised questions over the rule of law.
Prime Minister Najib Razak promised in 2012 to scrap the British colonial-era Sedition Act amid growing pressure for reform.
But after a 2013 election setback, government critics have increasingly been targeted by the law.
In November, Datuk Seri Najib said the law would be retained, and even strengthened.