KUALA LUMPUR, April 2 ― Amnesty International has urged Malaysian authorities to drop sedition investigations against four lawyers over a Malaysian Bar motion calling for the Attorney-General’s resignation.
The international human rights group said laws that are used to intimidate people from exposing wrongdoing by public officials are incompatible with the right to freedom of expression.
“These investigations are the most recent effort by the authorities to harass and intimidate critics of the government and undermine the independence of the Bar, the sole body representing practising lawyers in Peninsular Malaysia,” Josef Roy Benedict, deputy director of campaigns from Amnesty International’s Southeast Asia and Pacific regional office, said in a statement yesterday.
“Amnesty International calls on the Malaysian authorities to urgently repeal the Sedition Act, and to quash convictions against any individual sentenced under the act simply for peacefully exercising their rights to freedom of expression. The authorities must ensure that they are immediately and unconditionally released,” he added.
Benedict pointed out that a recent Amnesty International report showed that at least 91 people, including activists, journalists, academics and opposition politicians, were investigated, arrested or charged last year alone under the 1948 colonial-era law.
Police recorded Thursday statements from Malaysian Bar secretary Karen Cheah and the three lawyers ― Charles Hector Fernandez, R. Shanmugam and Francis Pereira ― who had moved the motion urging Tan Sri Mohamed Apandi Ali to quit as Attorney-General.
The contentious motion at the Malaysian Bar’s March 19 annual general meeting (AGM) called on Apandi to resign over his decisions in cases involving state investment firm 1Malaysia Development Bhd (1MDB), former 1MDB unit SRC International, and the transfer of RM2.6 billion into the prime minister’s personal accounts.
Apandi told a press conference on January 26 that he found that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak did not commit any criminal offence in the cases of SRC International and the RM2.6 billion transfer, which he said was a donation from the Saudi royalty.