The US State Department has voiced concerns over the arrest of Lembah Pantai MP Nurul Izzah Anwar.
It said the arrest, as well as recent investigations and charges under the Sedition Act 1948, raises concerns about freedom of expression, rule of law, and the independence of the judicial system in Malaysia.
“To further restrict freedom of expression will only lead to further erosion of important pillars of Malaysia’s democratic system.
“We encourage Malaysia to take steps to apply the rule of law fairly, transparently, and apolitically in order to promote confidence in Malaysia’s democracy, judiciary, and economy,” said the department’s spokesperson Jen Psaki in a statement today.
The statement came just a week after a petition to the White House that successfully crossed the 100,000-signature threshold, compelling it to respond.
To the petition’s urging for the US government to make jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s release its priority, the White House had said that it is disappointed with Anwar’s incarceration and will continue to pressure the Malaysian government on the matter.
Meanwhile, the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has urged Nurul Izzah’s release, and condemned the continued use of the Sedition Act.
“The Malaysian authorities must stop the continued use of the offence of sedition to arbitrarily detain and stifle freedom of expression,” ICJ Asia and Pacific regional director Sam Zarifi said in a statement yesterday.
ICJ to continue monitoring Izzah’s case
It said it will continue to monitor Nurul Izzah’s case and urged the government to repeal the Sedition Act.
Nurul Izzah, the eldest daughter of Anwar, was arrested at the Dang Wangi police district headquarters yesterday when she turned up to give her statement regarding the Kita Lawan protest on March 7.
Apart from the pro-Anwar protest, she was also being held for her allegedly seditious speech that she read in parliament on her father’s behalf, which criticised the conduct of the judges who found Anwar guilty of sodomising his former aide Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan.
Anwar had consistently claimed that he is innocent and the accusations against him are part of a political conspiracy.
Nurul Izzah currently is still in police custody, and was last seen being taken from the Jinjang police lockup to the Dang Wangi police district headquarters, with a brief stop at her home to allow her to freshen up.
A candlelight vigil attended by 500 supporters was held outside the lockup last night to show solidarity with her.