Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s daughter detained

Malaysian authorities launched sedition investigation after Nurul Izzah Anwar criticised the jailing of her father in parliament.

Nurul Izzah Anwar, the daughter of jailed Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Mohammed Rafsan / AFP
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KUALA LUMPUR // Malaysian police arrested the eldest daughter of jailed opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for alleged sedition on Monday, a move slammed by critics as a clampdown on dissent.

Nurul Izzah Anwar, 34, a member of parliament and a vice president of her father’s People’s Justice Party, confirmed her arrest by phone while in custody.

“I am extremely angry, and we all should be, because as parliament members we should be free to criticise the government of the day without reprisal,” said Ms Nurul Izzah, who also has led recent street rallies against Anwar’s conviction.

Ms Nurul Izzah has become the latest to be arrested in a sedition crackdown by Malaysia’s government that has seen dozens investigated, charged, or convicted over the past year, including several top opposition politicians.

She was to be detained overnight because of a speech she made last week in parliament, said Fahmi Fadzil, the party’s communications director.

Police did not specify which part of the speech – which questioned Anwar’s jailing – was seditious, and told Ms Nurul Izzah’s family that the detention was to facilitate investigations, Mr Fahmi said.

Mr Fahmi said the arrest was “ridiculous and outrageous”, noting that lawmakers have immunity over comments made in parliament.

He said the move was intended to silence the opposition after Anwar was jailed last month.

Anwar was convicted on February 10 of sodomising a former male aide in 2008 and sentenced to five years in jail.

Anwar has denied the charge and calls it a “political conspiracy” by the coalition in power since 1957, designed to thwart steady opposition gains in recent elections.

Ms Nurul Izzah last week read out in parliament portions of a statement by Anwar, now in prison, in which he questioned the independence of Malaysia’s judiciary.

Authorities have warned that criticising Anwar’s jailing could bring sedition charges, and a handful of critics have already been investigated or charged.

Anwar’s family condemned the arrest of Ms Nurul Izzah, saying it was “nothing short of intimidation and an abuse of power”.

Her sister said she went to police voluntarily to give a statement about an opposition rally she participated in earlier this month.

“We maintain that the arrest of our sister is illegal and unconstitutional. We deplore the glaring selective persecution,” Ms Nurul Nuha said, calling for her release.

Anwar’s arrest was widely seen at home and abroad as politically motivated to eliminate any threats to the ruling coalition, whose popularity has slowly been eroding since 2008 after more than five decades of unquestioned dominance.

Anwar and his three-member opposition alliance were seen as the most potent political threat to prime minister Najib Razak’s ruling coalition.

He led his oppostion alliance to unprecedented gains in the 2008 elections and made further inroads in 2013 polls. Mr Najib’s National Front coalition won with a slimmer majority and lost the popular vote to the opposition.

Human Rights Watch has criticised Malaysia for Ms Nurul Izzah’s arrest.

“Prime minister Najib needs to recognise that every sedition arrest of an opposition political leader is another step towards the destruction of rights-respecting democracy in Malaysia, and bring this campaign of abuse to an end,” Phil Robertson, the group’s deputy Asia director, said.

* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse