I read what Christ has gone through. It really motivates me - he never compromised on love and justice, nor the truth. -- Irene Fernandez
The trial of women's rights activist Irene Fernandez has become the longest running trial in Malaysia. A Christian human rights activist Irene Fernandez has been charged with publishing 'false news' about the ill-treatment of detainees in camps for migrant workers.
Roman Catholic Irene Fernandez is director of Teneganita, a women's organisation. She was arrested in 1996 after revealing details of torture and abuse of migrant workers held in detention camps. There are believed to be more than a million illegal immigrants in Malaysia, mainly Indonesians and Bangladeshis. With a collapsing economy the corrupt government of Mahathir bin Mohamad has pledged to drive the illegal immigrants out of the country. They are not too choosy on the methods used. Illegals are rounded up and held in overcrowded insanitary conditions in detention camps. Many detainees have died through typhoid and lack of medical care. Riots have broken out in the camps.
The government has refused to acknowledge the deaths or permit independent inspection of the camps. For revealing the truth about the camps Irene Fernandez has been charged with 'criminal defamation' and faces three years in gaol. Irene Fernandez is currently out on bail, she is under constant surveillance by the state security apparatus.
Christians like Irene Fernandez face a lifetime of persecution by the state. There is proposed legislation to make it a criminal offence for Muslims to convert to Christianity. Those who convert will face three year's imprisonment and a œ900 fine. Churches that preach the Christian gospel face prosecution and being driven under ground.
The state of Malaysia is a brutal Islamic regime with little respect for human rights. Corruption and cronyism under the leadership of the corrupt Mahathir bin Mohamad is endemic.
CSW, Malaysia - the longest trial, Christian Solidarity Worldwide, Issue 96 December 1998