The Detention and Brutal Treatment of Anwar Ibrahim

From Thailand to South Korea, Eastern Europe to Mexico, democracies have been better at coping with economic crisis than nations where freedom is suppressed. -- Al Gore

Open your eyes, open your hearts. Is it to much to ask? Open your eyes. -- Azizah Ismail, wife of Anwar Ibrahim

Look at the condition of my eye. You can imagine why they refused to see me [in court] earlier. -- Anwar Ibrahim

Under a government that imprisons any man unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison. -- Henry David Thoreau

This is probably the first chance in the world to see the Internet used as a real instigator of of a protest movement. -- Stan Sesser

20 September 1998, in the closing days of one of the worst Commonwealth Games, on the eve of the Queen's visit to Malaysia, 30,000 people took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur calling for democratic reform and the removal of the corrupt prime minister Mahathir bin Mohamad. The police and security forces reacted with violence, weighing in with tear gas and clubs to clear the streets.

One of the star speakers was Anwar Ibrahim, less than a month before, Finance Minister, Deputy Prime Minister and heir apparent to the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad. After decades of subservience, Anwar Ibrahim did the unthinkable and spoke out against the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad, the mismanagement of the economy, the cronyism, the corruption. Anwar Ibrahim was sacked (2 September 1998) and the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad ran a smear campaign to discredit him. After speaking at the rally, Anwar Ibrahim walked home to the resounding cheers of his supporters. At his home he gave a press conference. Paramilitary police kicked in the door and took him away. He wasn't to be seen again in public for ten days when he made a brief court appearance.

Anwar Ibrahim was beaten into unconsciousness on the evening of his arrest (20 September 1998). Only a few miles away, the Queen and Robin Cook (UK Foreign Secretary) supped and dined with a dictator, toasted the end of the Commonwealth Games. Neither spoke out. The UK has an 'ethical foreign policy'.

Since the sacking of Anwar Ibrahim there has been daily street protests.

The fabricated charges laid against Anwar Ibrahim were corruption and perverse sexual practices. Two star witnesses against Anwar Ibrahim were his friends who had admitted to participating with him in perverse sexual acts, and had been found guilty for these same offences. Ten days later they were to withdraw their 'confessions', claiming they had been extracted under duress.

On the day following Anwar Ibrahim's arrest, with people on the street, the police detained his friends and colleagues. Transmissions (video footage) from broadcasters of the demonstrations and police brutality were blacked out.

The arrest of Anwar Ibrahim spurred the fragmented opposition groups into co-operation. Political parties and NGOs called a joint press conference (27 September 1998) to protest the police brutality, the arrest of Anwar Ibrahim, and called for freedom of speech, right of free assembly, right to fair trial and fair hearing and repeal of all anti-human rights legislation, especially the Draconian Internal Security Act (that enables detention without charge or trial).

22 September 1998, Azizah Ismail, wife of Anwar Ibrahim, was questioned for several hours. Her request to see her husband was denied. She was warned not to ferment trouble. She feared for the safety of herself, her husband and her family. Police Chief, Abdul Rahim Noor, warned that now the Commonwealth Games were over, to expect a purge.

24 September 1998, the fascist police chief, Abdul Rahim Noor, called a news conference. Not used to Western style news conferences or Western media, he shouted at the journalists to 'shut up' and tried to tell them how to behave. The fascist buffoon, festooned with medals, looked like an over-decorated Christmas tree.

29 September 1998, Anwar Ibrahim appeared in court to face nine charges of corruption and perverse sexual activity. This was his first public appearance since his arrest ten days earlier (20 September 1998). He appeared looking pale, drawn and thin, his left temple bruised, his left eye black. He pleaded not guilty to the nine fabricated charges. He described how

I was boxed very hard on the left temple and the right part of my head. I was hit very hard on the left part of my neck. I was then slapped very hard left and right, until blood seeped from my nose and lips.

He then collapsed and passed out. He was denied medical attention for five days. He was held in solitary confinement in a darkened room.

On seeing the condition of their father, two of Anwar Ibrahim's daughters wept openly in court. His wife said that she was 'shocked and stunned that my husband has been a victim of police brutality'. She has been warned not to meet with journalists and not to ferment trouble. Anwar Ibrahim faces up to 20 years imprisonment on the false charges laid against him. Under the Internal Security Act he can be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

The authorities have threatened to inject Anwar Ibrahim with the AIDS virus unless his wife calls off the street demonstrations.

According to reports in the Malaysian press, the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad has claimed that the injuries sustained by Anwar Ibrahim were self-inflicted. An examination by a doctor of Anwar Ibrahim following his court appearance, supported the allegation that he had been beaten and sustained injuries whilst in police custody.

World leaders have rallied to the support of Anwar Ibrahim leaving the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad looking increasingly isolated. At the IMF/World Bank meeting in New York finance ministers spoke out against the treatment of Anwar Ibrahim, the exception was Gordon Brown (UK Chancellor of the Exchequer) who remained silent. Neighbouring countries have spoken out against the treatment of Anwar Ibrahim. At the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit held in Kuala Lumpur, US vice-president Al Gore launched a strong attack on the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad. World leaders now need to back their fine words with sanctions against the corrupt Malaysian regime.

Opponents of the corrupt Prime Minister are making full use of the Internet to co-ordinate their opposition and to inform the world of the brutal regime. Malaysia is following the path of Indonesia, institutionalised brutality, lack of democracy, with the majority of the population wishing to see the downfall of a corrupt leader. The people are expected to take to the streets until the corrupt Prime Minister is removed from office.

Anwar Ibrahim's teenage daughter, Nural Izzah, has taken up the campaign against the corrupt regime on her father's behalf.

Monday 2 November 1998, the trial of Anwar Ibrahim began. He appeared looking pale, thin and downcast. Most of the defence pre-trial appeals had been rejected by the judge. Several new charges were added to the original list. International observers were denied access to the trial, though several managed to slip into the public gallery. The US State Department attacked the decision to deny access to international observers. Armed security police ringed the court and prevented Anwar supporters from approaching the court.

The key prosecution witness was to have been Mohamed Said Awang (Special Branch director), but the choice of this witness backfired on the prosecution and only served to highlight the level of political corruption under Mahathir. Under oath, Mohamed Said Awang admitted he would lie if instructed to do so by his superiors, he spoke of 'turning over' witnesses and 'neutralising' anyone considered to be a threat. Mohamed Said Awang's testimony revealed a sordid tale of cronyism, political and financial corruption with the corrupt Mahathir at its heart.

Mid-January 1999 as the trial continued the prosecution admitted that Anwar Ibrahim had been badly beaten whilst in police custody. A couple of days later the chief of police resigned.

Freedom of expression and respect for democratic institutions and human rights do not exist in Malaysia. The Prime Minister justifies his iron rule as necessary to keep Malaysia on the path of economic success. The so-called Malaysian economic miracle now lies in ruins. In a histrionic outburst, Mahathir bin Mohamad, desperate to blame others for his own shortcomings and failings, has blamed foreign speculators and agents of foreign powers. In addition to the Draconian and repressive Internal Security Act (which grants the power for indefinite detention without charge or trial) Malaysia also uses the Sedition Act and Printing Presses and Publications Act to silence critics.

Those concerned with the treatment of Anwar Ibrahim and the lack of fundamental human rights within Malaysia should raise their concern with Malaysian diplomats in their own country, and also pressurise their own politicians to impose sanctions on Malaysia.

Malaysia is currently seeking funds from the West to bail out its failed economy. In addition to the usual economic strings, conditions on the reform of the democratic and judicial systems should be attached.

The detention and trial of Anwar Ibrahim is an abuse of the political system and the judicial process. In detaining Anwar Ibrahim Malaysia is contravening acceptable international standards on freedom of expression, the right to a fair trial and the treatment of detainees.

Amnesty International has adopted Anwar Ibrahim as a Prisoner of Conscience. In addition AI has called for the immediate release of all prisoners detained under the ISA and for an independent investigation of the injuries sustained by Anwar Ibrahim whilst held in custody.

Sources of information

John Aglionby, Anwar's teenage daughter picks up baton of reform, The Guardian, 19 October 1998

AI, Malaysia: A crossroads for human rights and the rule of law?, Amnesty International, 18 September 1998

AI, Malaysia: Amnesty International calls for Anwar to be charged promptly or released, Amnesty International, 21 September 1998

AI, Malaysia: Amnesty International declares Anwar a prisoner of conscience, Amnesty International, 25 September 1998

AI, Malaysia: The arrest of Anwar Ibrahim and his political associates, Amnesty International, 3 October 1998

BBC, The World at One, Radio 4, BBC, 29 September 1998

BBC, News Day, BBC World Service, BBC, 30 September 1998

BBC, The World Tonight, Radio 4, BBC, 30 September 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 1 October 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 2 October 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 5 October 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 10 October 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 18 October 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 25 October 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 1 November 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 3 November 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 15 November 1998

BBC, The World Today, BBC World Service, BBC, 17 November 1998

BBC, News Desk, BBC World Service, BBC, 8 December 1998

Nick Cumming-Bruce, Mahathir sacks deputy in row over economy, News in Brief, The Guardian, 3 September 1998

Nick Cumming-Bruce, Malaysia leader goes for gold in power game, The Observer, 13 September 1998

Matt Frei, Black eye may floor Mahathir, The Daily Telegraph, 4 October 1998

John Gittings, Angry Anwar spurned chance to flee, The Observer, 1 November 1998

John Gittings, Anwar faces fresh charges, The Guardian, 2 November 1998

John Gittings, Anwar downcast as marathon trial begins, The Guardian, 3 November 1998

John Gittings, US 'lecture' ruins dinner, The Guardian, 17 November 1998

John Gittings, Interrogators 'abused Anwar speechwriter', The Observer, 22 November 1998

John Gittings, Anwar 'victim' gives evidence, The Guardian, 3 December 1998

Guardian leader, Malaysian subtext, editorial, The Guardian, 19 November 1998

Frances Harrison, Anwar tells court of political plot, The Guardian, 9 February 1999

Nick Hopkins, Troops guard Queen amid rioting, The Guardian, 21 September 1998

Nick Hopkins, Mahathir cracks down on protests, The Guardian, 22 September 1998

Nick Hopkins, Wife cannot see Malay detainee, The Guardian, 24 September 1998

K Baranee Krishnaan, Anwar was assaulted, confirms doctor, Cyprus Mail, 1 October 1998

Kathy Marks, Anwar's trial is halted by arsenic claims, The Independent, 11 September 1999

Sheila McNulty & Peter Montagnon, Gore backs Malaysian protesters, Financial Times, 17 November 1998

Peter Montagnon & Sheila McNulty, Apec assails credit rating agencies, Financial Times, 19 November 1998

Seth Mydans, Arrested heir voices the unthinkable, The Guardian, 22 September 1998

Richard Lloyd Parry, Battered Anwar in court at last, The Independent, 30 September 1998

Richard Lloyd Parry, Malaysian furry at Al Gore's 'interference, The Independent, 18 November 1998

M G G Pilai & David Watts, US 'encouraging' Malaysian unrest, The Times, 18 November 1998

Michael Sheridan, Police witness turns the tables on Mahathir, The Sunday Times, 8 November 1998

Alex Spillius, Malaysian police storm mosque to break up demo, The Daily Telegraph, 26 September 1998

Alex Spillius, Police beat me as Queen was visiting, Anwar tells court, The Daily Telegraph, 30 September 1998

Alex Spillius, Australian leader hits at Mahathir over Anwar, The Daily Telegraph, 1 October 1998

Alex Spillius, Critics scorn Mahathir's claim that Anwar hurt himself, The Daily Telegraph, 1 October 1998

Alex Spillius, Doctor confirms Anwar's beating, The Daily Telegraph, 2 October 1998

John Sweeney, Don't act like that here in Malaysia, The Guardian, 25 September 1998

John Sweeney, Arrest of Anwar spurs solidarity, The Guardian, 28 September 1998

John Sweeney, Battered Anwar in court, The Guardian, 30 September 1998

Times editorial, The Regime in Malaysia - Corruption, cronyism and clamp-down are also Asian values, The Times, 22 September 1998

Stephen Vines, Malaysia losing fight against cyber protest, The Independent on Sunday, 13 December 1998

David Watts, Malaysia in turmoil as government cracks down on dissenters, The Times, 22 September 1998

David Watts, Anwar's wife accuses police of beating him, The Times, 30 September 1998

Foot notes and updates

Sunday 3 October 1998, the police cleared women and children off the streets who were protesting against the authoritarian regime.

Saturday 10 October 1998, Kuala Lumpur saw one of the largest street demonstrations. The protesters were calling for the removal from office of the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad.

Saturday 17 October 1998, Anwar Ibrahim issued a statement from prison deploring the inhumane treatment of detainees. The statement was read out to a political rally in Kuala Lumpur despite the heavy police presence.

Saturday 24 October 1998, demonstrators took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur in what has become a regularly weekly event calling for the resignation of the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad. Security forces responded in what for them has become escalating violence in what they see as a show of strength. Demonstrators were badly beaten, one women was dragged away by her hair. More than a hundred demonstrators were arrested. In the evening further violence took place outside a mosque as those leaving chanted patriotic songs and unfurled a banner deriding the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad.

Saturday 31 October 1998, hundreds of demonstrators once again took to the streets outside a mosque, scene of violence the previous week. In a show of strength, security forces appeared for the first time armed with assault rifles.

Saturday 14 November 1998, several thousand boisterous but peaceful demonstrators took to the streets of Kuala Lumpur calling for the resignation of the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad and justice for the imprisoned Anwar Ibrahim.

Monday 16 November 1998, on the eve of the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation summit to be held in Malaysia, US vice-president Al Gore launched a scathing attack on the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad whilst at the same time praising the demonstrators who were calling for democratic reform.

Monday 8 February 1999, Anwar Ibrahim took to the witness stand for the first time. He told how he was the victim of a political plot after launching a corruption investigation into Mahathir's cronies.

Wednesday 14 April 1999, Anwar Ibrahim was found guilty and sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. The US protested at the verdict and sentence. Riots broke out, with further rioting on the following Saturday. The paramilitary viciously attacked the rioters.

Friday 10 September 1999, urine samples smuggled out of prison and out of the country to Australia showed traces of arsenic. Anwar Ibrahim has shown symptoms of arsenic poisoning.

Sunday 19 September 1999, riots in the centre of Kuala Lumpur as police attack supporters of Anwar Ibrahim. The worst riots seen in Malaysia since Anwar Ibrahim was arrested a year ago.

Wednesday 29 September 1999. What a bloody hypocrite the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad. He whined to the UN that he found offensive TV pictures of Australian soldiers pointing their rifles in East Timor. Not a murmur during a quarter of a century of occupation and atrocities by Indonesia, not a whisper when his thugs attack and beat demonstrators on the streets of Malaysia.

Malaysia is to introduce passports that will contain an embedded electronic ID chip and an antenna. This will enable tracking and identification of the passport holder.

Lim Guan Eng is a Malaysian opposition parliamentarian who spoke out against the rape of a schoolgirl by a government minister. For speaking out Lim Guan Eng was sentenced to three years imprisonment, the schoolgirl to three years 'protective custody', the minister has so far not been charged. Amnesty International has adopted Lim Guan Eng as a Prisoner of Conscience.

Women's rights activist Irene Fernandez has been charged with publishing 'false news' about the ill-treatment of detainees in camps for migrant workers.

Human rights activist, Tian Chua, has filed a complaint of police violence, saying that he was punched and kicked in custody following his arrest at an anti-Mahathir demonstration.

Saturday 11 September 1999, Malaysia was one of the few countries (all Islamic countries) at the UN to show support for Indonesian atrocities in East Timor. One repressive state supports another.

With press censorship and plummeting newspaper sales the Internet has become the main source of information. Students are accessing the net, then distributing their printouts, demonstrations are organised via the net, then within hours of the demonstration the action is posted on the net. The censored press is starting to react, being more adventurous in what they dare to publish. The corrupt authorities are finding that they are powerless to act. Such is the power of the net that it has become a case study in itself as to how to counter corrupt governments.

More information on Anwar Ibrahim may be obtained from:
Amnesty International, 1 Easton Street, LONDON WC1X 8DJ, England
tel +44-171-413-5500 / fax +44-171-956-1157

Alternatives ~ Lim Guan Eng ~ Irene Fernandez
(c) Keith Parkins 1998-1999 -- September 1999 rev 8
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