Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sedition charge stifling freedom of speech

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PETALING JAYA: Charging lawyer N.Surendran for sedition is a move by the government to suppress dissent and stifle freedom of speech.

Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) says the Attorney-General’s (AG) decision to charge Anwar Ibrahim’s lawyer and Padang Serai MP Surendran under the Sedition Act while carrying out his duties as a lawyer is unjust.

The allegedly ‘seditious’ remark was made in a press statement titled: “Court of Appeal’s Fitnah 2 written judgement is flawed, defensive and insupportable” on 18 April 2014, which was a critique of the Court of Appeal’s findings of Anwar Ibrahim’s second sodomy conviction.
Michelle Yesudas from LFL said Surendran was merely doing his job in defence of his client Anwar.
”This sets an arbitrary and unjust precedent that will allow courts to convict lawyers for legal views that conflict with the political stance of the government, therefore stifling freedom of speech” she said in a statement.
LFL calls the police and the AG to “conduct themselves in a professional, fair and independent manner and not to selectively target opposition leaders and dissidents when government leaders and others connected to them like Ibrahim Ali, Zulkilfi Noordin, Ridhuan Tee, Mohd Noor Abdullah and others have made more serious and offensive speeches but led to no repercussion or action”.
DAP’s National Legal Bureau Chairman, Gobind Singh Deo said that the AG is in essence taking action against Surendren for stating his views of a judgement of the Court of Appeal, which views may well form the basis of the defence submissions in a pending appeal to the Federal Court.
“The AG is the respondent in that appeal. He should use that forum to answer all criticisms and arguments raised by the defence of and concerning the judgement of the Court of Appeal.
“He cannot and must not be allowed to exert any form of pressure nor intimidate Surendren or Anwar’s defence team in any way before the appeal especially by prosecuting them for expressing their views in the matter,” Gobind said in a statement.
He said that would be an utter abuse of the process and could well amount to contempt of court.
“It will also set a bad precedent, especially for the criminal bar, in that lawyers will be far less willing to speak their minds and defend their clients to the best of their ability for fear of being prosecuted.
“The AG should remember that all accused persons are constitutionally entitled to a fair trial. As such, it is my view that any efforts on the part of any quarter be it the AG or anyone else, to stifle such a guarantee, would also amount to a very serious violation of the constitution and strike against the very core values of our criminal justice system
“This is a matter of serious public concern. The AG is not beyond the law. No doubt, he has powers to institute prosecutions but these powers cannot and must not be exercised unlawfully” Gobind said

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