Siti Noor Aishah Atam, an Islamic Studies graduate student at the Universiti Malaya was convicted and sentenced for the crime of possessing 12 books. She was sentenced to five years in prison. CCS has written to the Prime Minister of Malaysia requesting that he review this case, drop the charges and release Atam.
May 24, 2017
Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Haji Mohammad Najib
bin Tun Haji Abdul Razak
Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building,
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya, Malaysia
Fax: +603 8888 3444
Dear Prime Minister:
The Committee of Concerned Scientists is an independent organization of scientists, physicians, engineers and scholars devoted to the protection and advancement of human rights and scientific freedom for colleagues all over the world.
We write to express our grave concern for Siti Noor Aishah Atam, an Islamic Studies graduate student at Universiti Malaya, who was convicted and sentenced by the Kuala Lumpur High Court on April 26 for the crime of possessing 12 books, none of which appear to have been banned by your government. Under the extremely broad prohibition against “possession, custody or control of any item associated with any terrorist group or the commission of a terrorist act” she was sentenced to five years imprisonment.
Under this vague law, it is impossible for someone to know when they are committing an illegal act. Siti Noor Aishah has consistently maintained that she was in possession of the books in question for research purposes. She was in fact acquitted of these same charges by this same court last year, but has nonetheless remained in detention or custody since her initial arrest in March of 2016, including a month of solitary confinement, alternatively under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (SOSMA) and the Prevention of Crime Act 1959 (POCA).
Academic freedom cannot prevail in a climate where such vague definitions in the Penal Code and such broad detention powers can be applied. As defenders of the rights of scholars, we urge you to see to it that this unjust conviction is overturned, and that Siti Noor Aishah is immediately and unconditionally released, as possessing reading material is not a crime under any recognizable human rights standard.
Thank you for your attention to this serious matter, and we look forward to receiving your response.
Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich, Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chair, Committee of Concerned Scientists, Inc.
H.E. Ambassador Datuk Dr. Awang Adek Hussin
Embassy of Malaysia
3516 International Court, NW, Washington DC 20008
Fax: 1 202 572 9882 I Phone: 202 572 9700