Fernandez's Freedom

Article excerpt

IRENE FERNANDEZ is finally free.

In 1995, the prominent Malaysian human rights activist released a report on the abuse of migrant workers in Malaysia, detailing patterns of torture, malnutrition and horrendous working conditions. [See "A Call for Justice for Malaysian Migrant Workers: An interview with Irene Fernandez," Multinational Monitor, Dec. 1996.] The embarrassed Malaysian government at first admitted that 46 people had died in migrant worker detention centers, but then in 1996 it arrested Fernandez and charged her with "maliciously publishing false news." After the longest trial in the country's history, Fernandez was found guilty in 2003 and sentenced to a year in prison. She immediately appealed.

In November 2008, Fernandez was acquitted.

"I believed I was right all the time. I believed I spoke the truth. What I didn't believe was the judicial system," said Fernandez in an interview moments after her acquittal. "Thirteen years is a very long time. …