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12 M'sian Politicians Who Have Been Imprisoned Or Detained. Here's A Look Back At History

The list below includes politicians who have stayed at least one night in confinement, while those who were sentenced to jail but granted a stay of execution are excluded.

Cover image via Reformasi Perjuangan Diteruskan Book via Malaysiakini , Allahyarham Dato’ Harun Idris (Facebook) , New Straits Times , cilisos

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1. Lim Kit Siang

Lim Kit Siang at the DAP headquarters after his release from ISA detention in October 1970.

Image via New Straits Times

#1 When: 1969 (18 months)

Position at the time:
Bandar Melaka member of parliament (MP) and the national organising secretary of the DAP

Detained under: the draconian Internal Security Act (ISA) 1960. The act allowed detainment without trial for up to two years.

Lim Kit Siang's first detainment under ISA came following the 13 May riot. He was in Sabah when the riot broke out. When he returned to Peninsular Malaysia, he was arrested and detained for 18 months, according to a DAP's official blog post, The Rocket.

In a defamation suit that Kit Siang filed against former Inspector-General of Police (IGP) Tun Mohammed Hanif Omar, the latter apologised to Kit Siang for claiming that he was arrested in 1969 for dividing the Malay and Chinese. The lawsuit ended in 2021 with a settlement and Mohammed Hanif's apology, reported New Straits Times.

#2 When: 1987 (17 months)

Position at the time: Tanjong MP

Detained under: ISA. Kit Siang was among the over 100 individuals, including Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu, arrested during Operation Lalang, which happened during Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad's administration.

Kit Siang's detention was slightly shorter than his son Guan Eng's, as he was only detained when he rushed to the police station to see his son, according to a blog post found on The Rocket.

The father-and-son duo were said to be the last two Operation Lalang ISA detainees to be released in April 1989.

2. Anwar Ibrahim

#1 When: 1974 (20 months)

Position at the time: Student

Detained under: ISA for protesting against rural poverty and hunger. He committed the crime when he was a student and he was imprisoned under the infamous act. He spent 20 months in the Kamunting detention centre, reported Malaysiakini.

#2 When: 1999 (four years)

Position at the time: Deputy prime minister and finance minister in 1998 before being removed from both posts by then premier Mahathir.

Imprisoned for: Sodomy and corruption. He was charged with sodomising Azizan Abu Bakar, the driver for Anwar's wife, on one night between January and March 1993, noted Malaysian Bar. The court was told that Anwar sodomised Azizan 15 times in luxury hotels and condominiums, reported The Straits Times.

Anwar was found guilty on 8 August 2000 and was sentenced to nine years in jail. But in 2004, he won his appeal against the sodomy conviction. As for his corruption charges, he was found guilty in 1999.

#3 When: 2014 (four years)

Position at the time: Opposition leader under PKR

Imprisoned for: Sodomy. He was said to have sodomised Mohd Saiful Bukhari Azlan, his political aide, at a condominium in Bukit Damansara on 26 June 2008. The trial opened in February 2010 and by January 2012, the High Court acquitted and discharged Anwar.

The prosecution then filed an appeal over the acquittal at the Court of Appeal and Anwar was sentenced to five years in jail, reported The Straits Times. He received a royal pardon shortly after Pakatan Harapan won the 14th General Election.

2. Harun Idris

Harun Idris (second from the right) and Muhammad Ali (far right).

Image via Allahyarham Dato' Harun Idris (Facebook)

When: 1977 (three years)

Position at the time: Selangor menteri besar and Bank Rakyat chairman

Imprisoned for: Forging minutes of a meeting for the purpose of cheating Bank Rakyat, reported The Star. The bank eventually lost RM7.9 million in an arrangement to stage the Muhammad Ali vs Joe Bugner fight. He was sentenced to four years in jail but received a pardon from the then Yang di-Pertuan Agong after serving three years, reported Free Malaysia Today.

Imprisoned for: Taking a RM250,000 bribe from HSBC and misappropriating RM8 million of Bank Kerjasama Rakyat's fund, reported Bernama. He was sentenced to two years in jail for the first offence and six months in jail for the second offence.

3. Mokhtar Hashim

When: 1983 (seven years)

Position at the time: Culture, youth, and sports minister

Imprisoned for: Murdering Datuk Mohamad Taha Talib, the then-speaker of the Negeri Sembilan legislative assembly. He was convicted of the murder that took place on 14 April 1982.

It was a widely reported case in the early 1980s, when the 76-day trial was closely watched by the whole nation due to allegations of the use of 'black magic' to weaken Taha before his death.

He was sentenced to death on 6 March 1983, but was released on 10 July 1991 following a royal pardon, reported Malay Mail.

4. Tan Koon Swan

Tan Koon Swan (middle).

Image via cilisos

When: 1985 (three years)

Position at the time: MCA president

Imprisoned for: Fraud, cheating, criminal breach of trust, and share manipulation. Self-made millionaire Tan Koon Swan was imprisoned in Singapore for the crimes he committed through Pan-El Industries, of which he was a major shareholder. The collapse of the company caused the halt of the Singapore and Malaysian stock exchanges, reported The Star.

He pleaded guilty and was jailed for two years in Singapore. When he returned to Malaysia in 1988, he was jailed for another year.

5. Mohamad Sabu

Mohamad Sabu (right).

Image via Info Rakyat

When: 1984 (about two years) and 1987 (more than two years)

Position at the time: PAS member

Detained under: ISA for being involved in extremist movements during the first detention and being detained again during Operation Lalang.

During his second detainment, he shared the same cell with Lim Guan Eng, where the duo eventually formed a deep friendship, reported The Malaysian Insider. Following his release, he was put under house arrest and had to report himself to the police station until the general election in 1990.

6. Lim Guan Eng

Image via The Rocket

#1 When: 1987 (60 days)

Position at the time: Kota Melaka MP

Detained under: ISA. Lim Guan Eng was detained under the draconian act during the infamous Operation Lalang, according to a blog post by Lim Kit Siang. The detainment was said to be a directive from then prime minister Mahathir, but the latter claimed that it was all the doing of the police at the time.

#2 When: 1988 (18 months)

Position at the time: Kota Melaka MP

Detained under: ISA. Lim was detained again under Operation Lalang and he is said to be among the longest-serving detainees in the Kamunting Detention Centre, noted a DAP archive post.

#3 When: 1998 (12 months)

Position at the time: DAP Deputy Secretary-General

Imprisoned for:
Sedition and publishing fake news. Known as the 'Lim going to jail for defending a Malay woman' case, which the critics said the party used to push for a political narrative, he was imprisoned for "prompting disaffection with the administration of justice" after he publicly criticised the then government's handling of allegations of statutory rape made against the former Melaka chief minister Tan Sri Abdul Rahim Tamby Chik in 1994, according to a statement by Amnesty International.

He was also charged under the Printing Presses and Publications Act with "maliciously printing" a pamphlet allegedly containing "false information" about the case. He was sentenced to 18 months in jail but was released from Kajang prison after serving 12 months, reported Malaysiakini.

7. Karpal Singh

Karpal Singh waving to his friends after leaving the courtroom with his wife and son in 1989.

Image via Asia Samachar

When: 1988 (10 months)

Position at the time: Jelutong MP

Detained under: ISA during Operation Lalang. Like Lim Guan Eng and Mohamad Sabu, Karpal Singh was among the over 100 individuals arrested during Operation Lalang under ISA, which happened during Mahathir's administration.

He was detained for 10 months, reported Malaysiakini. In 2001, the High Court ruled that the detention was unconstitutional.

8. Khir Toyo

When: 2015 (six months)

Position at the time: Selangor menteri besar

Imprisoned for: Using his position to obtain land and a bungalow in Shah Alam below market value, reported Astro Awani. The Federal Court sentenced him to 12 months in jail for the crime he committed in 2007 when he was the Selangor menteri besar. He bought the house from Ditamas Sdn Bhd for RM3.5 million even though the company paid RM6.5 million for it.

He served six months in confinement before being released to continue serving his sentence outside of Kajang Prison, reported New Straits Times.

9. Jamal Yunos

Image via Berita Harian

When: 2018 (a month)

Position at the time: Sungai Besar UMNO division chief

Detained for: One count of escaping police custody and two counts of trespassing. Jamal Yunos spent a month in jail in Sungai Buloh prison pending court proceedings. He was denied bail initially as he had escaped to Indonesia shortly after Pakatan Harapan came into power. He was arrested in Jakarta before being deported back to Malaysia to be charged, reported New Straits Times.

However, he was eventually allowed to post bail of RM20,000 in three sureties by the Shah Alam High Court. He was represented by Tan Sri Shafee Abdullah.

10. Tian Chua

When: 2017

Position at the time: Batu MP

Imprisoned for: Failing to obey police orders to vacate a restricted area at the Police Training Centre (Pulapol) in 2012, reported New Straits Times. He was sentenced to one month in jail.

He said that he was taken to Pulapol by force after he was arrested at a Bersih peaceful assembly together with some 500 individuals. However, Pulapol is gazetted as a restricted area under the Restricted Areas Orders 1975. He was sent to Kajang prison for the offence.

When: 2022 (currently in prison)

Position at the time: Tronoh Assemblyman

Imprisoned for: Raping his 23-year-old Indonesian maid. The former DAP member, who defected during the 2020 political manoeuvring dubbed the 'Sheraton Move', was sentenced to 13 years in jail for committing the crime in his residence from 8.15pm to 9.15pm on 7 July 2019.

Najib Razak (middle) when he was being transported to Kajang prison on 23 August.

Image via Aswadi Alias/New Straits Times

When: 2022 (currently in prison)

Position at the time: Prime minister and finance minister

Imprisoned for: One count of abuse of power, three counts of criminal breach of trust, and three counts of money laundering in the SRC International scandal. Najib Razak was found guilty of receiving RM42 million in his bank account from the former 1MDB subsidiary between 2014 and 2015.

The trial of the case started on 3 April 2019 and entered defence on 11 November 2019. The Kuala Lumpur High Court found him guilty on 28 July 2020 and sentenced him to 12 years in jail. He was granted a stay of execution pending appeal.

He failed in both appeal attempts at the Court of Appeal and the Federal Court. He was sent to Kajang prison on 23 August.

In 2020, at least 10 politicians from the government were charged with corruption. Several of them have been discharged not amounting to acquittal (DNAA) since:

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