Freedom of Expression on Trial 


Urgent Appeal Case: UA990302
ISSUES: Freedom of expression,

AHRC UA990302 Malaysia 02 March 1999

October 1998, thousands of Malaysians from all walks of life came into the streets to peacefully protest the corruptions and the injustices perpetrated by the government of the day. This form of protest had never before been seen in Malaysia.

17 October 98 the police reacted and over a hundred persons were arrested and detained. 128 of them were charged in court, and all except two claimed trial.

2 February 99 the trial for the 126 started and ended recently on 26/2/99. 37 Prosecution witnesses have been called to date. The next dates fixed by the court is begining from 26/4/99 until 26/5/99.

26 February 99 the 124 accused send a petition to the Attorney General asking that all the charges against them be withdrawn. A similar petition was send to Dato Abdulah Badawi, the new Deputy Prime Minister and new Home Minister.

8 March 99 another batch of 178 will see the begining of their trial and that case has been fixed until 8/4/99. Lawyers form the Bar Council Legal Aid Centre have come forward to defend all those accused.


People were defying the police as the government declared illegal any pro-Anwar Ibrahim demonstrations. The police had also threathen that illegal protester could be arrested under the Internal Security Act which allows for indefinite detention without trial. The Malaysian law states that any public meeting of more than three people without a police permit can be declared an illegal assembly, punishable by a fine of up to 10,000 ringgit (2,630 dollars) and a year in jail. Those arrested in anti-government rallies were detained for several days then released on bail pending trial.

Most of the detainees arrested claimed they were beaten, slapped, punched and/or kicked by the police.


28 February 1999 the former police chief Rahim Noor admitted that he beat Anwar Ibrahim when the former Prime Minister was handcuffed and blindfolded. 7 January 1999 The Inspector-General of Police (IGP)Rahim Noor resigned. It has been alleged that Rahim Noor was directly responsible for the injuries inflicted upon Anwar Ibrahim on the first night of his detention. Detainees are often beaten by police. Rahim Noors’ resignation confirmed the existence of the abuse of power within the police force. The former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim and many other ordinary citizens have suffered from the abuse of power by the police. Widespread misconduct by police and security force has resulted in a near collapse of public confidence in the government.

THE PETITION send by the 124 accused on 26 February 99:

THE Petition calls on the Attorney General and also the Home Minister to drop all charges against the 126 accused for the following reasons:-

a) The dropping of the charges will re-assure the people of the sincerity of the government, in particular the Ministry of Home Affairs, in implementing the recently lauched Goodwill to People Concept (Konsep Mesra Rakyat) campaign.

b) The long period that the accused have been required to attend court thus far has caused many to lose their sources of income. In this time of economic crisis, the result of this is felt not only by the said accused persons, but also their dependants.

c) With regard to the public sector employees, the absence of the accused from their daily duties affects public services, which in this particular period of economic crisis need to be given utmost attention. Loss of public monies and time is the result of this long-drawn out trial.

d) With regard to the private sector, the absence of the accused from their work place affects the productivity of the companies they work for.

e) With regards to those who are studying in the local institutions of higher learning, they have been suspended and their studies and future have already been affected. (In Malaysia, according to the University and University Colleges Act, a student who is charged in court will be suspended until the full disposal of his case- and if he is convicted, the said student will be expelled from the university).

f) The source of income of those working in the private sector has been affected because they had to take no-pay-leave to attend court.

g) For those who are self employed, when they attend court they cannot earn and the length of this trial has affected their livelihood. Many of these are poor and this has severely affected the well-being of themselves and their families.

h) This is the first offence for majority of the accused persons.

i) This is also a case which does not involve the loss of lives, injury and/or damage property (be it public property or individual’s property).


AHRC is very concerned by the frequent abuse of power by the police against citizens who legitimately express their dissent. At the pace that this trial is proceeding, the trial might last another couple of months. We encourage you to continue writing faxes and letters to the government.

It is hoped that concerned individuals/organisations will call on the Attorney General and/or the Deputy Prime Minister (whos is also the new Home Minister) requesting the following action to taken:

It is hoped that the Attorney General and Home Minister realizes that these persons have suffered enough as a result of the charge and the trial thus far.

stop persecuting the citizens for their peacefully protest againstcorruptions and the injustices perpetrated by the government;
condemn the charges against legitimate expressions of dissent;
that the right to freedom of assembly and expression be respected
abolish the Internal security Act;
ratify the ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise; Thus, Malaysian government will uphold the rights of its citizen by ratifying and implementing the treaties.

To support this case, please click here: SEND APPEAL LETTER


Tan Sri Mokhtar Abdullah, Attorney General, Bangunan Bank Rakyat, Jalan Tangsi, 50732 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia <br>

Dato Abdulah Badawi, Minister of Home Affairs, Jalan Dato’ Onn, 50502 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Faxes: 603 – 238 3784, 2984172,
Mr. Kapil Sibal, Chair, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, c/o Centre for Human Rights, Palais des Nations, 8-14, avenue de la Paix, 1211 Geneva 10 , Switzerland, fax to: (41-22) 917.01.23, email:
Permanent Mission of Malaysia to the United Nations, 42, Rue de Lausanne,1201, Geneva, Switzerland, Tel: (022)32-83-40, 32-10-77
and Diplomatic representatives of the Malaysia accredited to your country, especially to the following:
Embassy of Malaysia, 2401 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, Tel: (1202) 328 2700, Fax: (1202) 483 7661

Document Type : Urgent Appeal Case
Document ID : UA990302
Countries :
Issues : Freedom of expression,