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Malaysiakini's report:

In a surprise decision, the Kuala Lumpur High Court today acquitted migrant workers activist Irene Fernandez, thus bringing an end to a 13-year-long court battle.


High Court judge Mohamad Apandi Ali reversed the Kuala Lumpur Magistrate's Court judgment in 2003 where Fernandez was sentenced to one years’ jail for maliciously publishing false news. She was allowed bail pending her appeal to the higher court.

The High Court judge made the decision after deputy public prosecutor Shamsul Sulaiman said that the prosecution had decided not to fight the appeal.

irene fernandez trial 100908 03"In the light of the prosecution not opposing the appeal by the appellant, there is no necessity to deliberate on the appeal further," said Mohamad Apandi, drawing cheers and applause from Fernandez's family and friends who were gathered at the court as early as 9am.

"I hereby reverse the findings and sentence, and acquit and discharge the appellant. Conviction and sentence is hereby set aside," said the judge.

Prior to the judgment, the lawyers had met with justice Mohamad Apandi in chambers for about an hour. The court resumed open hearing at 11.30am and soon after announced the verdict.

Shamsul said that the prosecution had decided to not pursue the appeal as there were "recently discovered systemic error which are manifested in the notes of proceeding” as well as “the peculiar set of circumstances of this appeal".

DPP: AG decided to drop appeal

Shamsul added that the government’s decision to drop the appeal was made by attorney-general Abdul Gani Patail.

The Tenaganita executive director's was put off time and again after statements of important prosecution witnesses were found to be missing.

On Aug 5, the case was brought to a standstill when Fernandez was told a computer virus had wiped out a portion of a specific volume of notes required for the trial.

irene fernandez 13 year court battle 241108Two months later, Fernandez's lawyer M Puravalen said that the 8,988 pages of handwritten and typed notes amounting to a total of eight volumes of documents were "incomprehensible”.

Judge Mohamad Apandi had subsequently set today to hear arguments on the issue.

Fernandez’s 13-year ordeal began in 1995 when she exposed the poor conditions at immigration detention centres in a memorandum entitled 'Abuse, Torture and Dehumanised Conditions of Migrant Workers in Detention Centres'.

She alleged incidences of torture as well as deaths of illegal immigrants who were detained in the camps.

Fernandez was arrested and charged a year later under Section 8A (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act 1984.

Her case, which became the longest-running criminal trial in Malaysian history, ended in 2003 with the court finding her guilty and slapped her with a 12-month imprisonment.

'Light at the end of the tunnel'

Met outside court, 62-year-old Fernandez appeared jubilant after the court decision, saying that she could at last see "light at the end of the tunnel".

appeal by irene fernandez 241108 01 anwar ibrahim"(I am) relieved that truth and justice had prevailed and the conviction has been set aside but it also tells us that the courts have to be more systematic in what they do so that the technical errors do not surface.

"Still, the main point is I am free now after 13 years of struggle...," said Fernandez, who vowed to continue her fight to support migrant workers.

"We will continue in our struggle to ensure that detainees would also get their rights and justice to be continuously done to migrants, detainees and refugees - that aspect of the struggle would always be there until it is realised," she added.

appeal by irene fernandez 241108 s ambiga and wan azizah 01Bar Council chairperson Ambiga Sreenevasan (far left in photo), who present at today’s proceedings, told journalists that "justice had prevailed".

"We were always of the view that the case against Irene Fernandez was flawed (and) that there was a real travesty of justice with regards to this case.

"We are very happy today that justice has been done... the pity is that Irene had to suffer for 13 years before justice was finally done." -