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Monday, November 24, 2008

Dr Irene Fernandez

Dr Irene Fernandez is an amazing woman who has done great work promoting the rights of migrant workers in Malaysia. After publishing an article on the living conditions of these workers, she was arrested for 'maliciously publishing false news' in 1996. She was on trial for 7 years, found guilty in 2003 and imprisoned for a further year. Despite being released after this, her passport is held by the courts and, as a convicted person, she was barred from standing as parliamentary candidate in the 2004 Malaysian elections. Despite her restricted civil rights, she carries on her everyday life and continues her work.

She was awarded the Right Livelihood Award, also known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, in 2005.

Her appeal is due to start today, the 24th November 2008, and the petition below is demanding a return of her rights, and those of other human rights defenders.

Please read on, and sign.

From the Global Sisterhood Network.

Dear Friends,

We have drafted a petition letter for Dr. Irene Fernandez's freedom.

Dr. Fernandez is a staunch human rights activist and is the director
and co-founder of Tenaganita, a Malaysian NGO that promotes the rights
and welfare of migrant and agricultural workers. She is also a
Steering Council Member of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the
Pacific (PAN AP) and the People's Coalition on Food Sovereignty
(PCFS), among many organisations. In 2005, she was given the Right
Livelihood Award for "her outstanding and courageous work to stop
violence against women and abuses of migrant and poor workers".

In 1995, Dr. Fernandez published a report on the living conditions of
migrant workers in Malaysia's detention centres. She was charged with
'maliciously publishing false news' against the Malaysian government
in 1996. After seven years of trial, the longest in Malaysian judicial
history, she was found guilty in 2003. She was allowed bail pending
appeal. Her civil rights are now restricted, but she carries on her
everyday life and continues her work.

The trial of Dr. Fernandez will resume on 24th- 28th November, 2008
and this may be the final round of hearings in the High Court in Kuala
Lumpur, Malaysia.

We call on organisations, institutions and individuals to support Dr.
Fernandez by signing the petition letter which is addressed to the
Malaysian government and other institutions in Malaysia, and is posted

By signing the letter, you and your organisation or institution will
appeal for justice and rights of human rights defenders like Dr.
Fernandez and it may give her the freedom to continue her work with
migrant workers as well as helping communities achieve genuine
people's Food Sovereignty.

Please circulate widely.

Thank you.

Norly Grace Mercado
PCFS Secretariat

See also heart's post on Irene.