Press Statement

As prisoner of conscience, Anwar deserves better treatment

10 August 2015

Today is Anwar Ibrahim’s 68th birthday and the 182nd day spent as a prisoner of conscience in Sungai Buloh Prison. On 10 February 2015, the Federal Court sentenced him to five years’ imprisonment for a preposterous sodomy charge, after a trial and appeal process that was universally condemned.


Ever since Anwar was sacked as Deputy Prime Minister in 1998, the government has continuously misused state institutions to persecute him from holding political office and from fulfilling his elected role as a Member of Parliament and leader of the opposition. Anwar was beaten to within an inch of his life by then Inspector-General of Police Rahim Noor while handcuffed and blindfolded and after a series of sham trials, he ultimately spent six years in jail.


Let us be clear, Anwar is a prisoner of conscience and he deserves better treatment than what he is receiving in prison. It is quite shocking and deplorable how the authorities seem bent on making life as difficult as possible for Anwar and his family members by applying the prison rules in the most rigid and overzealous manner when there is wide discretion for a more humane and civilised approach.


For example, Anwar’s family members were not allowed any physical contact with him during the recent Hari Raya visit and they were also not allowed to bring any outside food for him. There were also restrictions on the number of family members who could visit him – his brother, sister and his step-mother who was wheelchair-bound were made to wait and finally turned away.


Is such cruel and inhumane treatment necessary? What possible harm could come if Anwar was allowed to see and touch his family members and enjoy some Hari Raya food?


Anwar is also kept separated from other prisoners and is virtually in solitary confinement. He has great difficulties in accessing proper and timely medical treatment as the authorities frequently delay or ignore his complaints thus further debilitating him as he is suffering from a serious right shoulder injury which was diagnosed as chronic rotator cuff injury of the right shoulder.


The few times Anwar was brought to the hospital after long delays, he was rushed through the medical test and treatment, and promptly returned to prison. He is now on painkillers and unable to access the intensive physiotherapy as required, as there is no such facilities in prison nor is he brought to the hospital on a regular basis for treatment.


We therefore call upon the authorities to release Anwar on house arrest so that he can spend the rest of his sentence in a minimum security correctional facility like various other prisoners of conscience Aung Ang Suu Kyi and Nelson Mandela (in the last 18 months of his incarceration).


Released by:
Eric Paulsen
Executive Director
Lawyers for Liberty


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