From prison to house arrest: Political figures' transition – Is Najib next?

21 Apr 2024 09:38am
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak - BERNAMA FILE PIX
Former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak - BERNAMA FILE PIX

SHAH ALAM - The transition from prison to house arrest is a compelling narrative that often captures public attention and scrutiny within the complex web of politics and justice.

From high-profile corruption cases to charges of sedition, these transitions have raised questions about the fairness of legal proceedings and the influence of political power.

Now, with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak's ongoing legal battle and appeal, many wondered if he would be the latest addition to the list of politicians seeking reprieve through house arrest.

Aung San Suu Kyi

On April 17, Myanmar's military government moved former leader Aung San Suu Kyi from prison to house arrest due to health concerns stemming from a heat wave.

Suu Kyi, along with other elderly and infirm prisoners, were relocated due to soaring temperatures, reaching 39 degrees Celsius. Her house arrest marked a significant development amidst ongoing unrest following the military's seizure of power in Feb 2021.

Her supporters alleged that the charges against her were fabricated to discredit her, while concerns about her health persist due to limited access to medical care and tight control over information by the military government.

It was also reported that the 1.9 acres lakeside mansion in Myanmar, where she spent 15 years under house arrest, was put up for auction with a starting price of 150 million US dollars.

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Leopoldo Lopez

On July 8, 2017, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez was put under house arrest after over three years in a military prison.

The Supreme Court cited humanitarian reasons, including Lopez's health and unspecified irregularities in his case.

Lopez, 52, was sentenced in 2015 for inciting violence during anti-government protests. His transfer came amid ongoing calls from the opposition for the release of political prisoners to facilitate dialogue and resolve the country's political crisis.

Speculation about Lopez's health circulated since reports emerged in May 2017 although the government denied initial claims of his deteriorating condition.

Hosni Mubarak

On Aug 22, 2013, former autocrat Hosni Mubarak was ordered by the government of Egypt to be placed under house arrest following his release from prison, where he has been detained for over two years.

The decision, announced after a court ordered Mubarak's release, aimed to mitigate tensions in a deeply divided Egypt amid fears that his freedom could fuel Islamist accusations of a return to the old regime.

Hosni’s release came after an appeal by his lawyers in one of his corruption cases, although he was still on trial for complicity in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising against him.

Subsequently, on May 21, 2014, a court in Egypt sentenced him to three years jail for embezzling public funds. His sons, Alaa and Gamal were also convicted and given four-year terms.

Hosni was already facing trial for abuse of power and conspiring in the killing of protesters during the 2011 uprising that led to his resignation.

In 2012, he had been found guilty, but the convictions were overturned on technical grounds, leading to a retrial.

He was then released from prison on March 24, 2017 and passed away on Feb 25, 2020 at the age of 91.

Najib’s potential transfer from prison to house arrest

On Feb 2, the Najib's 12-year jail sentence for misappropriating RM42 million in funds belonging to SRC International Sdn Bhd has been halved to six years.

The Federal Territories Pardons Board said Najib will be released on Aug 23, 2028.

His fine has also been reduced from RM210 million to RM50 million.

However, the board said if he fails to pay the fine, a year will be added to his sentence.

Najib began serving his initial 12-year jail term on Aug 23, 2022, following the Federal Court's decision to dismiss his final appeal against his conviction over the case.

He still faces three other ongoing criminal cases, including charges related to abuse of power, money laundering and misappropriation of public funds involving 1Malaysia Development Bhd.

Recently, it was reported that the Kuala Lumpur High Court has set June 5 to decide on a leave application by Najib to challenge the existence of an addendum order, purportedly issued with the consent of the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong, allowing the former prime minister to serve the remaining six years of his prison sentence under house arrest.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirmed in an affidavit in support of Najib’s legal challenge, the existence of an addendum order purportedly issued with the consent of the 16th Yang di-Pertuan Agong allowing Najib to go under house arrest to serve the remaining sentence.