PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have said it is wrong for Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed to say jailed former opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim would risk a longer jail term if he issues press statements without the Prisons Department’s approval.
Senior lawyer SN Nair said that Jazlan should not make statements that are not within his jurisdiction.
“Ministers can make political statements but not administrative statements.
“What he (Jazlan) is doing now is usurping the powers of the director-general because the Prisons Regulations come under the director, not ministry,” he told FMT, adding it was an intimidation of Anwar.
On Friday, Jazlan said the PKR de facto leader’s five-year jail term could be affected if the recent statements behind bars were issued without approval.
“If Anwar’s statements were relayed through third parties and were not approved by the Prisons Department, then it is an offence that can affect the jail period,” he added.
Nur Jazlan cited as example Anwar’s statement welcoming Pakatan Harapan’s (PH) decision recently to name former prime minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad as the coalition’s prime ministerial candidate.
He also warned of action against third parties who relayed Anwar’s statements, including stopping them from visiting him in prison.
Anwar has been serving a five-year jail term for sodomy since 2015. He is expected to be released on June 8, after a one-third remission.
Nair also said that under the Prisons Regulations, convicts are allowed to have reading and writing materials.
“Basic human rights must be observed behind bars. If other prisoners can write books behind bars, why can’t a former politician make a simple statement?”
Nair, who was also Anwar’s former lawyer in his abuse of power case during the late 1990s, said he had also carried the former deputy prime minister’s statements from the prison, to be issued to the media.
“I met him several times a week and bought him newspapers and other reading material.”
Anwar was convicted by the Federal Court on charges of abuse of power in 2002.
Another lawyer, Rafique Rashid Ali, said only a court has powers to increase a jail term, not the prison authorities.
“Which regulations allow prison authorities to impose more jail time if the convict breaches the by-laws?
“From my observation, there is nothing under the Prisons Regulations to allow the director-general to add more prison time,” he said, adding the government was seen as trying to muzzle Anwar’s right to free speech.
PKR vice-president Tian Chua, who was detained under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for two years from 2001 and served a one-month jail term last September for disobeying police orders, said he had issued statements while in custody and did not face any problems.
He questioned why the government is “panicking” over Anwar’s statements.
“He has been issuing statements since he was jailed in the 1990s. Why is the government giving this warning now?”
In August last year, the Prisons Department denied Anwar had commented on the Nothing to Hide 2.0 forum through a statement when he attended his defamation case in the High Court.
His lawyer, R Sivarasa, dismissed the department’s claim saying it was indeed Anwar who had made the statement as he was with Anwar at that time.