Lawyers cry foul as Anwar deprived of his legal rights

Lawyers condemn new restrictions of just one hour per week by one legal advisor and say is goes against the Federal Constitution

Tarrence Tan | September 9, 2015

KUALA LUMPUR: The new restrictions imposed on former Opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim by prison authorities in regard to access to his legal advisors has been roundly condemned by his team who say it is against the law.

Speaking at a press conference at the PKR headquarters, one of his lawyers N Surendran described the new restriction of one hour, once a week by one legal advisor as “disturbing” while prominent lawyer and human rights advocate, Ambiga Sreeevasan, has slammed it as a “joke” and an “insult” to the legal system.

“This is against the law and constitution. A person in prison is entitled to free and proper legal advice from lawyers.

“You cannot place unnecessary restrictions,” Surendran, who is also MP for Padang Serai said, adding that his team was shocked at learning these new developments when initially Anwar was allowed to see his lawyers twice a week, at two-hour stretches occasionally.

“To make things worse, prison authorities are now choosing which lawyer Anwar can meet.

“This is unacceptable, because lawyer access is a fundamental right and cannot be denied to a prisoner,” he added.

Meawhile Ambiga, who was present at the press conference, said Home Minister, Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, who is also deputy prime minister owed Anwar and his legal team an answer.

Ambiga said that one hour was simply too short a timeframe for legal advice, let alone in Anwar’s situation where he was involved in 16 court cases pending in the Federal Court, High Court and Syariah Court.

“One hour is a joke, frankly speaking,” she said. “They are insulting the system by suggesting that we can probably take instructions from Anwar Ibrahim within one hour.

“We cannot go to court unprepared.”

Nurul Izzah, MP for Lembah Pantai and the daughter of Anwar, said it was ironical that these new restrictions came about just after Prime Minister Najib Razak gave his assurance on Twitter that Anwar’s wellbeing in prison would be taken care of.

“I fully hold the prime minister and deputy prime minister accountable for such shenanigans and the denial of rights that is supposed to be given to the former opposition leader of Malaysia.”

“How much more do we have to face? You have taken away his political rights, now he is not a direct political challenge to you,” she said, adding that this “madness” must end.