Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Bar regrets it took AG 17 months to see Azmi case no merit

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The Malaysian Bar expressed its regret that the decision by the Attorney-General's Chambers to discontinue prosecution against Universiti Malaya law lecturer Azmi Sharom came almost one and a half years after he was charged.

According to Bar president Steven Thiru, the decision was made on Friday after the prosecution closed its case on Jan 14.

He said the decision vindicates the Bar’s unequivocal and unwavering stand that offering an opinion on matters in respect of the law and the Federal Constitution, including expressing views on exercising discretion under the law and the constitution, cannot by any stretch of the imagination constitute sedition.

"Moreover, the decision is also a resounding victory for academic freedom and autonomy, which facilitates and encourages independent and critical thinking and is thus essential for the advancement and maturity of any society.

"It is regrettable that it took the prosecution more than 17 months to realise that the case was without legal merit, and unsustainable in law," Thiru said in the statement.

He added that a proper assessment on the merits of the allegations at the very outset would have undoubtedly revealed there was no basis for prosecution.
 
Taking the public prosecutor to task, Thiru said Azmi (photo), his family and loved ones would be saved of the misery, anguish and anxiety.

This includes the law lecturer having to face financial burden and bear the brunt of an unjustifiable prosecution, he added.

Thiru further maintained the Bar's position that the Sedition Act 1948 has no place in Malaysia.

"It is an oppressive law that continues to sow seeds of intolerance, disunity and enmity in our country.

"It is further widely perceived that the Sedition Act is a dressed-up political weapon that is selectively used to target dissenting and contrary voices in our society. Its polarising and divisive effect does not nurture or engender peace and harmony among our citizenry," he said.

"The Malaysian Bar reiterates that the Sedition Act should be repealed, and all pending or ongoing prosecutions under the Sedition Act 1948, as well as appeals by the prosecution, should be discontinued and/or withdrawn immediately," Thiru added.

Among those facing sedition charges include cartoonist Zunar, who has nine, and the late Karpal Singh, whose family is seeking to set aside the conviction.

Others are student activists Adam Adli and Safwan Awang, activist Hishamuddin Rais, Padang Serai MP N Surendran, Shah Alam MP Khalid Samad and Ikatan Muslimin Malaysia president Abdullah Zaik.

~ Malaysiakini

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