Azmi Sharom, an associate professor of law at the University of Malaysia Faculty of Law compared an ongoing political crisis to a situation in 2009 and criticised the secrecy with which the issue was treated. He is being prosecuted for sedition. CCS requested that to the extent his statements were made in respect to his professional competence as a legal scholar, the charges should be dropped as violating his human rights to free expression and academic freedom.
The Honorable Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak
Prime Minister of Malaysia
Office of the Prime Minister of Malaysia
Main Block, Perdana Putra Building
Federal Government Administrative Centre
62502 Putrajaya, Malaysia
September 18, 2014
We write to you now in support of Professor Azmi Sharom, an associate professor of law in the Faculty of Law at the University of Malaya, who faces prosecution on charges relating to his academic profession.
We are gravely concerned regarding reports that Professor Azmi was charged in Kuala Lumpur Session Court with sedition. The charges stem from an interview Mr. Azmi gave on August 14th regarding an ongoing political crisis in Selangor state. In the interview Professor Azmi compared the current crisis to a situation in the Malaysian state of Perak in 2009, and stated “[y]ou don’t want a repeat of that, where a secret meeting took place” and “I think what happened in Perak was legally wrong. The best thing to do is do it as legally and transparently as possible.”
Prof. Azmi pleaded not guilty to the charge against him and was released on bail pending trial. He spoke publicly about the prosecution, stating, “I was shocked to learn that I am being charged under the Sedition Act because of comments I made on the Perak crisis of 2009. My statements were based on established case law and democratic principles. They were given in my capacity as a law lecturer of 24 years standing.” Reports indicate that his next hearing is set for October 3, 2014.
The facts as described suggest that Prof. Azmi’s comments were protected expression related to his professional competence as a legal scholar. Prosecution for such expression would violate internationally recognized standards of academic freedom and the right to freedom of opinion and expression.
We therefore respectfully urge you to direct appropriate authorities to ensure a full, impartial, timely investigation and public reporting on the incident as early as possible; to drop any charges or proceedings against Prof. Azmi which stem from his exercise of academic freedom and the right of freedom of opinion and expression.
Sincerely,Joel L. Lebowitz, Paul H. Plotz, Walter Reich,
Eugene M. Chudnovsky, Alexander Greer
Co-Chairs, Committee of Concerned Scientists
Scholars at Risk
- Azmi Sharom ‘chased out’ of UKM campus (themalaysianinsider.com)
- Not guilty, says first academic charged with sedition (universityworldnews.com)
- UN rights office calls for review of Malaysia sedition law (jurist.org)
- UM lecturer Azmi Sharom faces sedition charge (malaysia-today.net)
- Sedition Charge against Dr. Azmi Sharom (malaysia-today.net)