Today The Kuala Lumpur High Court judge Mohamad Apandi Ali acquitted migrant workers’ activist wheelchair-bound Irene Fernandez after a 13-years court battle.
In July 1995 during the premiership of Dr Mahathir, Irene Fernandez published a report on the living conditions of migrant workers in Malaysia and sent this report to the government. This public report was titled “Abuse, Torture and Dehumanized Conditions of Migrant Workers in Detention Centers.” The report described the sexual exploitation of women, unpaid wages, beatings, malnutrition and poor medical care of migrant workers in the immigration deports. Irene documented the government’s sadistic and humiliating treatment of migrants. She also told about the random beatings in the middle of the night, HIV/AIDS, detainees sleeping on a roofless porch, rain or shine, filth, food and water shortages, and totally inadequate medical care.
The government denied everything and somewhere in March 1996, Irene Fernandez was arrested at her home and charged with ‘maliciously publishing false news’.
After seven years of trial, Irene was found guilty in October, 2003 and imprisoned for one year for publishing, with malicious intent, false news about the treatment of migrant workers awaiting deportation in Malaysia’s notorious immigration detention centers. She was later freed on bail but her passport was held by the courts and she has appeared in court more than 150 times in the last five years for the appeal.
The appeal process, which did not start until April 1, 2008, has seen a series of postponements. When it was discovered that 1,700 pages of the record, including witness statements, were missing, the hearing was postponed until May 12, only to be postponed again. The papers were unexpectedly found some time later. The case was again postponed on August 5 when it was discovered a computer virus had wiped out some newly typed notes. In October, Irene’s defense lawyer said that he had received almost 9,000 pages of handwritten and typed notes, but that portions were “incomprehensible.” Nevertheless, the presiding judge said the case would be concluded and a verdict delivered by mid-December but he did it by end-November.
Salute The Judge Mohamad Apandi Ali!