Asia

Anwar Ibrahim: Malaysia opposition leader 'should be freed'

Former Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim arrives for a court hearing in Kuala Lumpur (21 May 2015) Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Anwar - who has already served one six-year term for another sodomy conviction that was later overturned - has always insisted he is innocent

A UN body says the sodomy conviction of Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim was politically motivated and he should be released immediately, according to a copy of a report released by his family.

The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention also apparently said that his political rights should be reinstated.

Mr Anwar was jailed for five years in February after his final appeal failed.

He and his family say the case was brought to keep him out of politics.

They have welcomed what they say is the working group's conclusion (on the website of his international legal team) which, they believe, sends "a clear and unequivocal message" to Prime Minister Najib Razak that the "sharp decline in human rights under his administration will not go unnoticed".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The opposition want Mr Anwar released straight away
Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The UN says that the government of Prime Minister Najib Razak has not replied to its queries surrounding the Anwar Ibrahim case

The government argues that Mr Ibrahim's conviction is a matter for the Malaysian courts who found him guilty after an exhaustive legal process spanning many years.

In an interview with the BBC, Mr Anwar's daughter Nurul Izzah Anwar said that the ruling vindicated her father and the government should now comply with the working group's recommendations.

"The findings by the UN working group on arbitrary detention basically solidifies our position that he's innocent, the victim of politically motivated persecution," she said.

Ms Anwar said that Malaysian law was being used by the government to silence dissent.

In the copy of the working group's report released by his family, the experts conclude that Mr Anwar's deprivation of liberty was arbitrary and that he should be released "without delay". It said that his political rights - removed when he was sent to jail - should also be restored.

The working group is appointed by the UN Human Rights Council and has five members from Australia, Benin, Mexico, South Korea and Ukraine. It is an independent body responsible for investigating alleged cases of arbitrary detention.

In the letter the group apparently also expressed concerns about Mr Anwar's physical and psychological health amid claims that he is in pain while being held in solitary confinement. It said the Malaysian government has not replied to its queries about the case.

Sodomy is illegal in Muslim-majority Malaysia, though very few people are ever prosecuted.

Mr Anwar - who has already served one six-year term for another sodomy conviction that was later overturned - has always insisted he is innocent.

He had widely been seen as the only real threat to the ruling coalition.

His People's Justice Party (PJP) has held a series of rallies to protest against his jailing.

A judicial review against Mr Anwar's imprisonment is being brought by his family on 16 November, his daughter told the BBC.


Timeline: Anwar Ibrahim

  • 1993 to 1998: Deputy Prime Minister, under Prime Minister Mahathir bin Mohamad
  • 1999: Jailed for abuse of power, sparking huge street protests
  • 2000: Found guilty of sodomy with his wife's driver
  • 2004: Supreme Court overturns sodomy conviction, freeing him from jail. He quickly emerges as the de facto opposition leader
  • March 2008: Ruling coalition narrowly wins general election, but with its worst results in 50 years. The opposition makes unprecedented gains
  • August 2008: Anwar charged with sodomy for a second time, but despite this is soon voted in as an MP
  • February 2009: Second trial for sodomy starts
  • January 2012: Acquitted of sodomy by High Court
  • May 2013: Leads opposition to best-ever performance in general elections
  • March 2014: 2012 acquittal overturned by court after government appeal

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