The lawyers acting for the jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim said today that that he faces serious health risks because he is living in a bare cell with just a two inch-thick foam mattress on the floor, a bucket for bathing, and a squat toilet.
Anwar, aged 67, was taken to Sungai Buloh prison last Tuesday after Malaysia’s federal court upheld a ruling by the Court of Appeal last year, which found Anwar guilty of sodomising his former aide Saiful Bukhari Azlan in 2008, and sentenced the former deputy prime minister to five years in prison.
His lawyers, N. Surendran, Latheefa Koya, and Sivarasa Rasiah, pointed out that he suffers from a long-term spine and back condition.
“The conditions he is being held in are aggravating his spine and back condition and may pose a grave threat to his health,” they said.
“At the very minimum, in line with his medical condition, he must be given a bed and a medically appropriate mattress, a chair and table, a shower, and appropriate toilet.”
Anwar, they said, cannot bend over or stand up from sitting on the floor without pain and aggravation of his condition.
Given Anwar’s age and current medical condition, any damage done to his health during his incarceration may be irreparable, his lawyers say.
“The Home Minister and prison authorities are fully aware of the opposition leader’s health condition and requirements. Copies of Anwar’s medical reports have been given to the Home Ministry and the prison authorities.”
Anwar’s lawyers say that repeated requests to the Home Ministry and prison authorities for their client’s basic medical requirements to be met have so far been ignored.
“We call upon the Home Minister and the government to take into account Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim’s medical condition and treat him according to those needs. His conditions must be immediately improved before there are serious consequences to his health.
“The government is fully responsible for prisoner of conscience Anwar Ibrahim’s safety and health while he remains in custody.”
No special treatment
Prisons Department deputy director Supri Hashim says Anwar is being treated like any other prisoner, in accordance with prison regulations.
Supri said that the use of computers, mobile phones and the Internet was banned for all inmates except those who have approval to use such facilities for higher learning programmes. He was responding to comments about the frequent updating of Anwar’s Facebook and Twitter accounts and pointed out that these updates could be made by others.
Anwar to testify in defamation case
Anwar is due to appear in court tomorrow in Kuala Lumpur. He has been granted permission to testify in a defamation case he has brought against Malaysia’s foreign minister, Anifah Aman.
He will again come face-to-face with Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, who led the prosecution in the sodomy trial and is representing Anifah in the defamation suit. Shafee has been criticised for comments he has made since the federal court verdict. Former Bar Council president Datuk Ambiga Sreenevasan said it was unprecedented for a deputy public prosecutor to attack an accused person after a court delivered its verdict.
In a lawsuit filed in May 2009, Anwar accused Anifah of defaming him by alleging he had tried to lure Anifah and others to abandon the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition by offering Anifah a high-ranking government post.
Anwar also accused Anifah of saying he had offered financial bribes to Barisan Nasional MPs to try and get them to defect to the Pakatan Rakyat (People’s Pact) coalition.
Anwar said the alleged defamatory remarks were made by Anifah in a joint press conference with the then United States Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in Washington DC.
Calls for protest
Parti Keadilan Rakyat (People’s Justice Party) youth leader Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad has urged Anwar’s supporters to gather at the Kuala Lumpur Courts Complex in Jalan Duta tomorrow morning.
“Through your participation in our vigils, marches, gatherings, and via social media, we have shown the country and the world that Malaysians will not falter in the face of persecution.” Nik Nazmi said.
A new Malaysian youth coalition, Kita Lawan (“We will fight”) was formed in Kuala Lumpur yesterday, and has called for a mass demonstration on March 7 and 8 in protest at Anwar’s jailing.
The coalition is also demanding the immediate resignation of the prime minister, Najib Razak, and reform of the judicial system “to guarantee its independence and integrity”. The youth movement condemned the conviction and jailing of Anwar as a “political conspiracy”, for which they say Najib is responsible.
Yesterday’s youth meeting followed a demonstration in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday, during which hundreds of young people marched through the city, calling for Anwar’s release, an independent judiciary, and an end to the 57-year rule of UMNO (the United Malays National Organisation).
After his first trial on sodomy and corruption charges in 1998, he was convicted and given a nine-year prison sentence.
The verdict was partially overturned in 2004, resulting in his release from prison as he had already served his sentence for the corruption offence.
Following his release, Anwar became the leading figure in the opposition and helped coalesce the opposition parties into the Pakatan Rakyat grouping. The PKR allied itself with the Democratic Action Party (DAP), and the Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party (PAS) in 2008, just after the election.
In the 2008 election, the three parties had gained control of five state assemblies and made significant gains at the federal level. Pakatan Rakyat also denied the government a two-thirds majority in the election in 2013.
Saiful’s accusation came just months after Pakatan Rakyat was formed.
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