AN international human rights watchdog is seeking the help of Malaysians to convince the country’s monarch to free prominent opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim from prison, where he is serving a five-year sentence for sodomy.
New York-based Human Rights Foundation (HRF) urged the public to send letters addressed to the country’s head of state, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong or the King, to appeal for Anwar’s immediate release.
In an open letter, the foundation urged the Yang di-Pertuan Agong Muhammad V to release Anwar who it says was wrongly convicted on politically-motivated charges of sodomy.
“Anwar Ibrahim’s criminal prosecution, from beginning to end, was riddled with bias, political influence, and miscarriage of justice,” the letter to the King read.
“We respectfully urge Your Majesty to recognise the undeniable political meddling in (Anwar) Ibrahim’s case, order him to be released from prison, and clear him of his conviction.”
The foundation claimed the sodomy charges that led to Anwar’s conviction in 2014 were “trumped-up” and lacked DNA evidence. The charges, it said, also saw inconsistent testimony of his accuser and alleged tampering of evidence by a police officer in the case.
Anwar is currently serving a five-year prison sentence at the Sungai Buloh Prison centre, where he was sent upon his conviction two years ago.
He was jailed in February 2015 after his appeal against an earlier 2014 sodomy conviction was rejected by the High Court.
There have been several attempts to free him via the courts and through appealing for a royal pardon, all of which have proven unsuccessful.
Anwar has long claimed that the charges against him were politically-motivated as the conviction disqualifies him from political office.
HRF’s open letter was sent after new evidence purportedly surfaced involving alleged bribery during Anwar’s trial.
The foundation was referring to an article published by independent news site Sarawak Report, which alleged the lead prosecutor in the state’s appeal of Anwar’s initial acquittal, Shafee Abdullah, received payments totaling RM9.5 million.
The payments allegedly from the Malaysian government were said to be for personal compensation and were given some two weeks before the High Court overturned Anwar’s acquittal.
The payments raise serious questions about Shafee’s independence, HRF said, especially since Najib’s administration had previously told the public that Shafee received a RM1,000 (US$233) token payment for his work on the prosecution team.
Since the article was published May 31, Shafee has yet to deny receiving any additional payment from the prime minister.
HRF president Thor Halvorssen said Anwar was “robbed” of his freedom and his political rights because of his popularity as an opposition leader.
“If he were given a fair trial, (Anwar) Ibrahim would have been cleared of these bogus sodomy charges.” he said.
“We respectfully urge Your Majesty to do the right thing and reunite him with his family as soon as possible.”