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Malaysia high court acquits migrant rights activist

[JURIST] A Malaysian labor activist jailed for alleging police brutality against illegal immigrants in detention was acquitted by the Kuala Lumpur High Court [Malaysia courts website, partially in Malay] on Monday. Irene Fernandez [Amnesty International profile], the director and cofounder of migrant workers' rights group Tenaganita [advocacy website], was arrested in 1996. In 2003 she was convicted on a charge of violating Section 8A (1) of the Printing Presses and Publications Act [text, PDF] and sentenced to a year in prison as a result of her 1995 report exposing the living conditions of migrant workers in Malaysian detention centers, alleging sexual abuse and denial of adequate medical care. Judge Datuk Mohamad Apandi Ali set aside the conviction and sentence of the magistrate court because prosecutor Shamsul Sulaiman refused to oppose the appeal on the grounds that he had discovered "systematic errors in the records" [Malaysia Star report] which would make opposing the appeal contrary to justice. AP has more.

Fernandez received the 2005 Right Livelihood Award [advocacy website] for her work for the rights of Malaysia's poorest groups, even through her trial and appeal. Malaysia has been engaged in an ongoing effort to limit illegal immigration [JURIST report] and its dependency on foreign workers. It was named as one of the worst refugee rights violators in a 2008 report [materials, JURIST report] by the US Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (UCSRI) [advocacy website].

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