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Mar-10-2016 16:46printcomments

Charges Dropped Against Lena Hendry Human Rights Activist After Three Years

No Fire Zone director Callum Macrae described the charges against Lena as “a disgrace”.

Lena Hendry
Lena Hendry, Human Rights Activist

(SALEM, Ore.) - The acquittal of leading human rights defender Lena Hendry on charges of breaching Malaysia’s draconian censorship laws has been welcomed by film-makers, actors and artists around the world.

Ms Hendry was accused of screening the award-winning documentary No Fire Zone: The Killing Fields of Sri Lanka – a film about human rights abuses at the end of Sri Lanka’s civil war – to an invited audience in July 2013.

The screening was raided by 30 officials from the Malaysian Home Ministry, the Police and Immigration Officials. She was charged with showing the film without approval from Malaysia’s Censorship Board.

But yesterday Magistrate Mohd. Rehan Mohd. Aris ruled that the prosecution failed to establish a “prima facie” case against Hendry and acquitted her.

The news was welcomed by No Fire Zone director Callum Macrae who described the charges against Lena as “a disgrace”.

“The truth about the terrible crimes committed at the end of the war in Sri Lanka is at last beginning to emerge. The decision of the Malaysian authorities to try to silence this film and brave human rights defenders like Lena at the behest of the then Sri Lanka government was truly shameful.”

Macrae added: “I am very happy indeed for Lena and all her supporters. I am also very happy that the Malaysian court has rejected this shocking attempt to silence legitimate protest. I hope the Malaysian authorities will learn their lesson and repeal their repressive censorship laws.”

Last year 100 leading film-makers, writers, artists and lawyers from around the world signed an open letter calling on the Malaysian government to drop the charges against Ms Hendry, who is from Malaysian human rights NGO Pusat KOMAS.

If found guilty, she faced up to three years in jail.

The signatories of the letter included many well-known actors, directors and artists from the US, India, Malaysia and the UK, including the rapper M.I.A; Grammy Award winning Angelique Kidjo; actor Greg Wise; writers from Naomi Klein to Meena Kandasamy; and No Fire Zone director, BAFTA and Emmy nominee Callum Macrae.

Other leading filmmakers who signed the open letter included Academy Award winner, Laura Poitras; BAFTA winner, Joshua Oppenheimer; BAFTA fellow, Roger Graef; Emmy Award winner, Joslyn Barnes; Indian filmmaker, Anand Patwardha; Canadian filmmaker, Avi Lewis; Singaporean filmmaker, Tan Tan Pin; and Malaysian filmmaker, Hassan Muthalib.

Last night Ms Hendry welcomed the decision saying:“This is a small victory in the long and big fight against freedom of expression and information issues in the country. I am happy that the case is dismissed, but the fight for the right to information and the right for expression will not stop here.

"No individual should be penalized for seeking more information or displaying the information. I believe that my case has highlighted another draconian law in Malaysia and we must continue to demand for the space to seek more information and not be afraid to speak about it.”

Hendy also thanked the many people around the world who pledged their support: “I take this opportunity to thank all those who have stood beside me, supported me and pressured the government to drop the charges against me. Your efforts have not gone to vain. The fight will continue.”

SEE ALSO: (2013) Malaysia: Put an end to judicial harassment against Ms. Lena Hendry

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