Anwar’s fate hangs in the balance

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The peace talks between the Thai government and the militant group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN) has been stalled due to Thailand’s continuing political instability. But the family of a detainee serving a 12-year imprisonment sentence remains hopeful that their beloved man will be released, no matter how long they have to wait.

Rohmeela Saeyae, wife of detainee Muhammad Anwar bin Ismael Hajiteh, known more simply as Anwar, visits her husband at Pattani Central Prison every day, along with a big bag of food for him and his fellow prisoners.

The case of Anwar began in 2005 when he was arrested, along with other suspects under the Emergency Decree. He was accused of being a member of the insurgent group Barisan Revolusi Nasional (BRN), involvement in terrorism and illegal gatherings but he denied all charges.

Anwar, at the time of his arrest, was an independent journalist. His work reflected the voice of people in the restive southern border region through alternative media. He was also a peace activist for more than eight years.

In 2007, the court sentenced him 12 years in jail. Two years later, the Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s verdict, saying the witnesses’ account in the trial mainly based on hearsay and there is no credible evidence to substantiate the allegation.

However, the Supreme Court saw otherwise and upheld the lower court’s ruling.

“As Anwar’s wife, I already lost hope in justice process as the Supreme Court already had the verdict. But personally, I want the case to be re-tried as Anwar has always reaffirmed that he was not the BRN member,” Rohmeela said.

Currently, Rohmeela lives with Anwar’s parents and runs a coffee shop called “Bunga Raya” to make a living as the family’s breadwinner is now in prison. The Chinese rose or Hibiscus is the symbol of her shop but also considered as the flower of the Pattani Malay ethnic group. She hopes that her husband will be released and that peace will be returned to her hometown.

“Don’t say that Anwar is an insurgent. Some say that I’m a mother of an insurgent which is not true. Anwar is not an insurgent. He has been accused and when he went to teach students. He was accused of conducting an illegal gathering. How can it be so since his students whom he taught to read the Quran are only five years old?”, said Mareeyoh Hajiteh, Anwar’s mother.

Recently, media friends of Anwar and human rights activists have launched a campaign “Free Anwar” collecting names in order to seek a royal pardon for him from His Majesty the King. They also hope that the peace dialogue between the Thai government and the BRN will soon be concluded as one of the agreements include the release of security-related prisoners .