The Kuala Lumpur High Court has acquitted Irene Fernandez, co-founder and executive director of Tenaganita. The first words as she was congratulated, Irene said, “I am free! At last I am free!” A scheduled court appeals hearing, which was to last until Friday, 28 November was today ended when Judge Mohamad Apandi Ali gave his decision and set aside her 2003 conviction and reversed the conviction and sentencing. This report from Tenaganita.
Minutes later, Irene walked out of the court-room, free at last, saying, “I’m relieved that there’s light at the end of the tunnel.”
“I spoke the truth (and now) the conviction has been set aside,” she added.
It was a day of double surprises. The defence lawyer, M. Puravalen had asked that the motion of appeal stay. Turning the Public Prosecutor Shamsul Sulaiman, the judged then asked if the prosecution opposed the motion.
“Having been served the type-written notes, and having thoughtfully studied the notes, I have decided in the interest of justice, that justice itself would not be served by opposing this appeal.”
“You do not oppose, does that mean that you concede the case?” the judge asked.
“We do not oppose the appeal,” was the quiet reply.
The defence then asked that the conviction and sentence be set aside. The came the final surprise. From the bench, the judge gave his decision. “In the light of the respondent and Public Prosecutor is not opposing the appeal, I set aside and reverse the conviction and sentencing.”
The court room erupted into continous loud cheers which the judge had to wave down. It has been thirteen long years, too long for anyone to wait to have their name cleared by the courts. But Irene has finally found closure.
Surrounded by her family, friends, colleagues and supporters, Irene said that the rights of defenders must be upheld. Ultimately, it is the people that we work with – migrants and refugees – that have been handed this victory. There is also vindication in the work that Irene does, and the organization that she heads.
Finally, to Ms Moganambal, who is Irene’s defence lawyer – from Irene and Tenaganita – we thank you and we love you.