Or watch at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QaPpfJhKUXY
Julian Assange speaks to the leader of the Malaysian opposition - Anwar Ibrahim. As a rising internal rival to the former Prime Minister Mahathir, Anwar was imprisoned for 5 years after being smeared with sex allegations. As a result of a popular campaign in 2004, his conviction was overturned and he was released from prison. In 2008, he was again targeted for sex crimes allegations, he won the case earlier this year. With Malaysian elections looming with Anwar tipped to win, he has now been charged with unauthorized assembly. If found convicted, he will be prevented from running. Assange talks to him about how he has survived and what he sees as the future of Asia and the West.
Julian Assange talks to Malaysia’s main opposition leader, who twice served terms in prison after what he calls politically-motivated criminal cases. But he keeps fighting for democracy in a country he brands less democratic than even Burma.
When Anwar Ibrahim, the former deputy prime minister of Malaysia and currently leader of the opposition party, says democracy, he means “an independent judiciary, free media and an economic policy that can promote growth and the market economy.”
However, at the same time, he told Assange that the people of Malaysia should understand what abuses all these elements of freedom may bring to their country.
“Arab Spring – one area clambering for freedom. Then we have Occupy Wall Street… and the limitations, the unbridled greed and the gap between the very rich and very poor, the complicity between the big business groups and politics – these we need to avoid,” Ibrahim says.
From prison to parliament
Nowadays Ibrahim’s opposition political party is gaining more and more support from the people. However, before his voice was heard, he went through six years in solitary confinement in prison and two criminal cases.
Ibrahim was first arrested for supporting land farmers in the north and demanding better treatment from the government. As a result he spent two years in detention without trial.
The activist was released after Mahathir Mohamad became prime minister, whose reforms he supported. He even became his deputy.
But in 1998 Ibrahim was imprisoned for six years ‘for corruption and sodomy’ after he fell out with his boss.
He was released in 2004 largely thanks to campaigning by his wife. Thousands of people went into the streets in his support.
In 2008, a significant year for Malaysian politics, Ibrahim tried to get elected to parliament. He maintains this was a real challenge because his opposition party was not given even a minute of air-time.
“We won 10 out of 11 parliamentary seats, and so I believe we are ripe for some sort of Malaysian Spring through the electoral process,” he says.
And despite the fresh allegations of sexual harassment he faced in 2008 and the abuse he suffered on a daily basis at the hands of the national media, his party gained more support from people.
In January 2012 he won the case. But with Malaysian elections looming and Anwar tipped to win, he has recently been charged with unauthorized assembly.
On Monday he faced fresh charges over his part in a mass rally for electoral reforms.If he is found guilty, Anwar might be sentenced to up to two years in prison and a fine. This will mean that he could be disqualified from standing in elections.