10-month jail sentence against Perak protestors harsh and disproportionate
18 March 2015
Lawyers for Liberty is shocked at the 10-month jail sentence and RM5,000 fine imposed on 13 pro-democracy activists at the Court of Appeal today for protesting against the swearing in of Zambry Abdul Kadir as Menteri Besar of Perak in 2009.
The Court of Appeal should have taken into account the exceptional extenuating circumstances surrounding the protest, that it was by and large peaceful and aimed at preventing a highly controversial “coup d’état” of a legally elected Pakatan Rakyat Perak government.
The sentence is certainly harsh and disproportionate compared to the RM1,500 fine imposed on 15 men, mostly Umno members, who barged into the Penang state legislative assembly last year, threatened its occupants and also destroyed property.
Today’s sentence unfortunately reaffirms public perception that the law is being applied selectively and unevenly to the opposition and their supporters while Barisan Nasional officials and their supporters are rarely prosecuted for similar offences. In the rare instances pro-government supporters are prosecuted, they are mostly treated with kid gloves as exemplified by the RM1,500 fine imposed on the Penang protestors.
We call upon the courts to safeguard the Constitution and in particular to uphold the fundamental freedoms guaranteed therein including freedom of speech, assembly and association and not let the government’s political interest override everything else including legitimate dissent.
Lawyers for Liberty
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