Irene Fernandez, Director of Tenaganita has been going through a trial for the last seven and a half years for exposing the dehumanized conditions in Immigration detention camps. Irene was charged under the Printing Presses and Publication Act for publishing alleged false news when she exposed the conditions in detention camps in a memorandum made public in August 1995. It is the longest running trial in Malaysian history.
When the defense wound up its case in March this year, the Magistrate had set March 17, 2004 as the day the judgment would be given after getting the submissions from the defense and prosecution. However, all of a sudden, the following events occurred:
9TH OCTOBER 2003
Lawyers received a letter from the magistrate requesting them to send the written submissions by 11th October 2003. She stated that she would pass judgment on Irene¡¦s trial on Tuesday, 14th October 2003 at 2.30 pm. This date has been brought forward by six months. Ms. Juliana has resigned from the civil service under the Legal and Judicial Commission. Her last day at work under this commission will be 17th October 2003.
10TH OCTOBER 2003
Prosecution submits written submission within 24 hours of notification.
However, the senior counsel for the trial, Mr. Puravalen is not in the country. He is in Pakistan as part of a team on a fact-finding mission related to Human Rights. The mission will only end on October 20, 2003. Thus, it would be impossible for him to send in the written submissions or to be present in court when the judgment is made.
We are indeed very concerned over the following issues regarding this latest turn of events:
- Both Irene¡¦s lawyers will be unable to be present in court on the day of judgment denying her basic constitutional right to choice of counsel. Due to this, she will be unable to present her submission. This constitutes a gross miscarriage of justice.
- The magistrate had initially stated that she required three months upon receiving the submissions to pass judgment. The point of concern is that the three months have now been cut short to one working day.
The trial of Irene Fernandez, charged under the Printing and Publications Act raises fundamental issues and concerns related to freedom of expression, guaranteed both in the Malaysian constitution and Universal Declaration of Rights. It also raises concerns on the rights of human rights defenders who are important in raising issues of violations of rights of people and communities especially of people under statutory custody.
Posted on 2004-01-09