Pusat Komas urges Suhakam to intervene in Lena Hendry's conviction

KUALA LUMPUR: Pusat Komas urged the Malaysian Human Rights Commission (Suhakam) to intervene in activist Lena Hendry's (pix) conviction for illegally screening a film.

Pusat Komas programme coordinator Ryan Chua submitted a memorandum to Suhakam to seek the Attorney General's Chambers to drop charges and all criminal records against Lena.

Chua also urged Suhakam condemn the court's judgement and to ensure that the government respects human rights and freedoms according to international standards.

"We sincerely hope and seek Suhakam 's consideration of this gross human rights violation against an activist in Malaysia and intervene to defend her," he told Suhakam today.

Lena, who is also a programme coordinator in Pusat Komas, argued that there isn't enough evidence to convict her and the case will set a bad precedence in freedom of expression.

She also said Section 6 of the Film Censorship Act is too vague that screening any film without approval could technically be considered an offence.

She added that the film was shown in a private screening and thus there should be no grounds for a conviction.

Lena was found guilty by a Magistrate Court for screening a film without a permit on Feb 21 and is currently awaiting sentencing on Mac 22.

She was initially acquitted of the offence on Mac 10 2016 by a Magistrate Court as the prosecution could not establish prima facie, but this was set aside by the High Court on appeal and she was ordered to enter defence.

Lena was charged for screening the film "No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka" on July 3 2013 and was charged on September 19 of the same year.

The documentary film about alleged war crimes against ethnic Tamils during the 2008-2009 Sri Lankan Civil War was directed by Callum Macrae and produced by British TV-broadcaster Channel 4.

She could face a fine up to RM30,000 and a jail term of up to three years, or both according to the Film Censorship Act.

Suhakam commissioner Datuk Mah Weng Kwai received the memorandum but refrained from commenting due to sub judice as Lena's sentence will be delivered very soon.

"Sentencing is the court's sole discretion. We don't want to make any statements that can be seen as attempting to influence sentencing," Mah said.

However, he said, Suhakam will be looking for any breach of law and fundamental freedoms in the case and what are the parameters of what is allowed or not allowed to be screened.