UN body says detention of Anwar Ibrahim is arbitrary, calls for immediate release

Anwar Ibrahim at the Syariah court of appeal in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, 2015.
Anwar Ibrahim at the Syariah court of appeal in Kuala Lumpur on March 24, 2015. PHOTO: SIN CHEW DAILY

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP, The Star/Asia News Network) - The Malaysia government on Monday (Nov 2) rebutted a UN body's opinion that that former Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim has been jailed illegally, saying that Anwar was convicted of a crime and the case was not political.

"The final verdict in this case was reached by the courts after exhaustive and comprehensive legal process had been followed over many years," the Prime Minister's Office said in a statement

"The Federal Court judges will have upheld the Court of Appeal’s guilty verdict only after considering all the evidence," said the PMO.

Anwar, 68, was jailed in February for five years after being convicted for sodomising a male aide. He denies the charge, calling it a frame-up by Malaysia’s long-ruling government to cripple a resurgent opposition.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention concluded that Anwar was denied a fair trial and that the charges were pursued for political reasons, according to a copy of the opinion released on Monday by his family.

"The Working Group considers that the adequate remedy would be to release Mr Ibrahim immediately, and ensure that his political rights that were removed based on his arbitrary detention be reinstated," said the opinion, dated Sept 15.

It also said Anwar's treatment in prison violates international prohibitions against "torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment".

Anwar's family has complained that he is being held in a filthy cell with only a thin foam mattress despite chronic back trouble, and has been denied adequate medical care for a host of ailments include erratic blood pressure and a shoulder ailment.

"I am deeply grateful that the United Nations has called for Anwar's release," said Ms Nurul Izzah Anwar, the former opposition leader's daughter and a Member of Parliament.

"Its strong stance in solidarity with my father sends a clear and unequivocal message to Prime Minister Najib Razak, and ensures that the sharp decline in human rights under his administration will not go unnoticed."

The PMO said in its statement that Malaysia has an independent judiciary and the government does not have the power or authority to overrule the decisions of the courts.

The UN working group is a five-member body currently comprised of experts from Australia, Benin, Mexico, South Korea and Ukraine.

The case is the second such disputed conviction for Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was ousted from the ruling party in a late 1990s power struggle and jailed on sodomy and corruption charges widely viewed as politically motivated.

After his release in 2004, he helped unite Malaysia's previously divided opposition into a formidable alliance.

His latest conviction has been criticised by the United States - which said it raised questions over rule of law - as well as other nations and international human rights groups.