In Malaysia, Opposition Leader Anwar’s Daughter in Jail for Sedition


2015.03.16
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MY-nurulizzah-620-March2015 Malaysian MP Nurul Izzah Anwar gestures as she leaves the Duta court complex in Kuala Lumpur, Feb. 17, 2015.
AFP

The eldest daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was spending the night in jail after being arrested Monday for alleged sedition.

MP Nurul Izzah Anwar, vice president of the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party), had gone to give police a statement for their investigation into the opposition-led #KitaLawan [#FightBack] rally held in Kuala Lumpur on March 7.

Instead, officers detained her under the Sedition Act over the probe into the rally and also for making "contemptuous remarks that those in the judiciary system had sold their souls to the devil," national police chief Khalid Abu Bakar said in a statement, according to the Associated Press.

Khalid said she would be released once police completed their interrogation.

But Fahmi Fadzil, the party's communications director, accused the police of detaining Nurul Izzah because of a speech that the lawmaker gave in parliament last week, when she spoke out against her father’s imprisonment on a sodomy charge.

“I am extremely angry, and we all should be, because as parliament members we should be free to criticize the government of the day without reprisal,” Nurul Izzah told Agence France-Presse by phone.

Nurul Izzah is the latest to be picked up in the government’s sedition crackdown during the past year, which has seen dozens investigated, charged or convicted, including several top opposition politicians.

The U.S. State Department said it was "deeply concerned" by the detentions under the sedition law of Nurul Izzah as well as other government critics.

"The Malaysian government's recent investigations and charges of sedition against critics raise serious concerns about freedom of expression, rule of law and the independence of the judicial system in Malaysia," departmental spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

"To further restrict freedom of expression will only lead to further erosion of important pillars of Malaysia’s democratic system," she added.

Reacting to Nurul Izzah’s arrest, Human Rights Watch said the Malaysian government was stifling free speech and criminalizing dialogue “that would be a normal part of political discourse in much of the rest of the world.”

Prime Minister Najib Razak and his government were using the Sedition Act like “an axe to hack down opposition politicians, community activists, and any others, who dare speak their minds,” said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of the global human rights group.

Immunity for MPs?

Monday’s arrest prompted opposition lawmakers to question the concept of fair comment in the Dewan Rakyat (House of Representatives). N. Surendran, a fellow member of the Pakatan Rakyat opposition bloc, called the sedition investigation “unconstitutional.”

“Article 63(2) of the Federal Constitution confers immunity from any proceedings in court for anything said by an MP in the Dewan Rakyat,” The Star newspaper quoted him as saying.

Malaysia’s government plans to expand the Sedition Act during the current Dewan Rakyat session, Home Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said last week.

The purpose is to help protect the sanctity of Islam and other religions, and to act against those calling for the secession of the East Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak, he said.

More sedition arrests

Meanwhile, four men were charged with sedition on Sunday in Kota Kinabalu, the capital of Sabah state, for allegedly possessing materials urging Sabah and Sarawak to leave Malaysia, The Star Online reported.

The materials are linked to the Facebook page “Sabah Sarawak Keluar Malaysia,” which advocates that the two Bornean states leave the federation of Malaysia.

Sabah nationalists have been increasingly discussing secession as people are becoming more aware of poverty, immigration and political issues, such as “Project IC,” which was designed allegedly to change the state’s demographic and electoral roll by issuing identity cards to migrants, The Malaysian Insider reported.

By BenarNews staff with details from news reports.

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