Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Court drops charges on activist accused of screening Sri Lankan war film

As charges against activist Lena Hendry over screening a film on the Sri Lankan killing fields were dropped today, international human rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said the Malaysian government should instead axe the 'draconian provisions' of the Film Censorship Act. HRW's deputy director for Asia, Phil Robertson said the case against Lena of Pusat Komas should not have been brought to court in the first place. "Justice has finally been done by the court throwing out charges against Lena under the Film Censorship Act. "This was a politically motivated case that should never have been prosecuted in the first place, and a blatant infringement on the right to freedom of expression. "In the future, instead of films ending up on the cutting room floor or being banned altogether by Malaysia's censors, it's the draconian provisions of the Film Censorship Act that should be getting the snip from Malaysian lawmakers," he said in a statement today. Lena was today acquitted without defence called for a documentary "No Fire Zone", that had not been approved by the Film Censorship Board. Magistrate Mohd Rehan Mohd Aris said the prosecution failed to prove a prima facie against the accused. "Having gone through the evidence and submissions, I am satisfied the prosecution failed to prove the ingredient of the charge," Rehan said. Lena, represented by lawyer New Sin Yew, was on a RM2,500 bail through out the trial. Under Section 6(1)(b) of Film Censorship Act, 2002, Lena risked a maximum three years' jail or a fine not exceeding RM30,000, if convicted. She was charged in September 2013 for allegedly screening the documentary directed by British national Callum Macrae. The film explores the alleged oppression by the Sri Lankan government of Tamils in the island nation during the civil war. In his submission, New said there was no evidence to show that Lena was the one who screened the film as there is also a possibility that the film was screened by others present. He added that the two prosecution witnesses also could not confirm if Lena was inside the screening hall or not. Robertson said nobody should have gone through Lena's experience for simply screening a film. "Congratulations to Lena and her colleagues at Pusat Komas for standing up and persevering in the face of this unjust persecution," he added. – March 10, 2016.]]>

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