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Freed journalist withdraws appeal to Malaysian court

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    NMU         KUALA LUMPUR         Press at Home & Abroad         Oct 28, 1999    

Freed journalist withdraws appeal to Malaysian court

  • A reporter who recently spent a month in a Malaysian prison would have to make court appearances in Malaysia to attack his contempt sentence, and so has chosen not to appeal.

The bureau chief for Far Eastern Economic Review, who recently spent a month in a Malaysian prison, would have to make court appearances in Malaysia to attack his contempt sentence, and rather than return, Murray Hiebert has withdrawn his appeal to the Federal Court of Malaysia, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Hiebert, who was released on Oct. 11 from a Malaysian jail after spending a month behind bars on a 1997 contempt of court charge, would have to return to Malaysia for more court appearances and post a $52,600 deposit in order to pursue an appeal, the high court ruled in late October.

The Canadian-born journalist was forced to stay in Malaysia for two years after his conviction in 1997 for writing an article that the judges claimed “scandalized the court system.” He now lives with his family in Washington, D.C., where he will head the Economic Review‘s Washington bureau.

“We are not aware of any jurisdiction in the Commonwealth that requires an appellant who already has served his sentence to continue to attend court proceedings,” said a spokesman for Dow Jones & Co., which owns the paper.

“Mr. Hiebert will not return to Malaysia and, therefore, will be unable to meet the unprecedented condition imposed by the Court on his ability to challenge the injustice of his conviction and sentence.”

Hiebert was the first journalist in the Commonwealth’s 50-year history to be imprisoned for writing a story about a court case. The story, “See You In Court,” highlighted a $2.6 million lawsuit filed against the International School on behalf of the 17-year-old son of a popular appeals court judge.

In sentencing Hiebert to three months in jail, the judges said they had grown tired of media attacks on the judiciary. An appeals court upheld the conviction but reduced the jail time to six weeks. Hiebert was released two weeks early for good behavior.

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