As prisoner, Anwar Ibrahim has the distinction of filing the most number of public interest cases.
PETALING JAYA: Anwar Ibrahim is not a frivolous litigant although he has filed seven cases against the authorities since his incarceration in prison two years ago, lawyers and his supporters said.
In fact, they said, the former opposition leader was a public spirited citizen who was testing the parameters of the law.
Lawyers said his action would also contribute to the development of the law, especially on fundamental liberties of citizens.
They said Anwar could have the distinction of being the prisoner who has filed the single most number of suits of public interest.
They said this in response to Anwar’s latest suit, filed on Monday to set aside his sodomy conviction, allegedly obtained on perjured evidence by a crown witness.
His lawyer N Surendran said his client would rely on Section 44 of the Evidence Act to quash an earlier court verdict on the basis that the complainant, Mohd Saiful Azlan, had lied in court.
Anwar, 69, wants the court to set him free if the application is allowed.
He is serving a five-year jail term after losing his appeal at the Federal Court on Feb 10, 2015, to overturn the charge of sexual misconduct against Saiful in 2008.
The PKR de facto leader last December failed in his review application for a rehearing of the Federal Court verdict on the grounds that the Feb 10 ruling was biased, and an unfit and improper ad hoc prosecutor had conducted the case for the government.
About six months earlier, the apex court had thrown out Anwar’s application to include the evidence of retired former senior policeman Ramly Yusuff in the review application that he (Anwar) was a victim of political conspiracy.
Early this year, the Court of Appeal allowed Anwar to appear before the Federal Court to determine whether the Pardons Board’s decision-making process could be subjected to judicial scrutiny.
This matter arose after Anwar’s wife Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, and their daughters Nurul Izzah and Nurul Nuha, submitted a petition for clemency to the king.
Subsequently, Anwar also filed a judicial review against the Election Commission for its refusal to facilitate him to cast his ballot in the Permatang Pauh parliamentary by-election.
Anwar, who is serving time at the Sungai Buloh prison, also filed another suit against the government for not allowing him to have physical contact with his family members during their visits.
He had also challenged the National Security Council Act which, among others, gives the prime minister authority to declare any locality in Malaysia a security area. He said it was unconstitutional.
All the cases are pending in the Court of Appeal.
Lawyer Muhammad Rafique Rashid Ali said Anwar was only exercising his constitutional right to seek justice from the courts.
“He is certainly not a frivolous litigant or else the government could have made an application to declare him as one to stop filing suits,” he said.
He said his action only demonstrated that our constitution and legal system even allowed a prisoner to challenge those in the corridors of power as long as there were lawyers prepared to take up the cases.
He said some of the cases, although they appeared to have been filed for his benefit, were, in fact, of public interest and had wide implications.
Lawyer R Kengadharan said Anwar had standing to file the suits as the legal position on locus standi had been given a liberal interpretation by the courts of late.
“I admire his courage and effort to challenge the establishment from the four corners of the prison walls,” he said.
He said irrespective of whether the cases were decided for or against Anwar, the public would know the position taken by the courts through their judgments.
“This is where Anwar’s contribution to the development of the law comes into play,” Kengadharan said.
Meanwhile, PKR vice-president Tian Chua said the latest suit filed by Anwar was part of a campaign to free him so that he could return to active politics.
“This is also to refresh the minds of the rakyat that Anwar is a political prisoner,” he said at the Kuala Lumpur court premises on Monday.
Meanwhile Saifuddin Abdullah, the Pakatan Harapan secretary, said efforts to secure Anwar’s release needed to be intensified to give the “firepower” to the four-party opposition coalition.