Thursday, July 19, 2007

Police vs Nathaniel Tan. Witness the trampling of our basic rights.

Let me tell you why I didn't jump on the Free Nat bandwagon. While I'm no fan of the OSA (see: The Official Secrets Act (OSA) - THE PERFECT SCAM!), I felt that the police were entitled to act within their powers to arrest someone in connection with the commission of a crime. And unless we, the voters, are willing to exercise our votes to install a govt which is committed to repeal the OSA - I feel that we cannot fault the police for acting on its provisions.

As long as the police acted professionally and Nat got a fair hearing plus his day in court to prove the triviality of the police action, I actually felt that this was a good exercise in law and order.

Therefore, it was not so much that a blogger was arrested, but the fact that the police acted unprofessionally and thoroughly violated his basic rights after his arrest - that infuriated me:

- From the time Nat was detained on Friday 13th July circa 4.30pm at Phileo Damansara to 11pm that night, he was not allowed to inform anyone about his whereabouts (see Nat's blog: Statement on my Detention (Eng & BM)).

Between shit like this, ISA, Kamunting and blowing up Altantuya... I mean what the fuck is up with the PDRM's fetish for "making people disappear"? Is this the Polis DiRaja Malaysia we're talking about, or is it the Kempeitai or Gestapo? Singapore's security forces might have had inspiration from Israel, but ours seems to have gotten theirs from the Bosnians, Serbs and Croats. I wonder if we'll find mass graves in KL? ;p

- Not only was he NOT provided with a govt-appointed legal counsel, he was also denied access to his own legal counsel - before and up to his remand hearing with the magistrate on Saturday. It was only by good fortune and fateful coincidence that a good samaritan (who happened to be present at the courthouse) had informed Nat's lawyer that he would be facing the remand hearing that day. Even then, Nat mentioned that the police did much to inconvenience his consultations with his lawyer.

- He was subjected to various methods of psychological torture (eg. multiple interrogators over long sessions of interrogation, lack of sleep and uncomfortable quarters, constantly repeated lines of questioning - stuff we see in movies designed to 'break' the victims).

And the govt has got some nerve to complain vehemently about Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, when we've got our own hellholes right here in KL. At least the US was torturing hardcore international terrorists. We're torturing skinny neighbourhood bloggers.

- He was interrogated without the presence of legal counsel on multiple occasions, up until his release on Tuesday 17th circa 5pm (see Malaysiakini PKR webmaster released on bail).

The Bar Council (their statement on Nat's arrest here) has produced an excellent piece of literature called the Red Book, which details the rights of those citizens when:

1. Police stop you
2. Police question you when stopped
3. Questioning by police without arrest
4. Police arrest you
5. Your rights after arrest & during detention
6. Remand order by magistrate after arrest
7. Body search without arrest
8. Body search upon arrest
9. Questioning by police after arrest

Download the BAR Council's Red Book here: Know your rights: Read the RED BOOK in pdf format. Everyone (especially high-risk folks like big mouthed bloggers) should keep a copy in their laptop, notebook and smartphone. Better yet, print it on your T-shirts and walk around the streets educating everyone around you.

Below are excerpts from the Red Book about your rights regarding (4) arrest, (5) detention without remand for 24hrs max and (6) remand to extend detention by 14 days.

Know what your rights are so that you're not oblivious when they are trampled upon.


Anonymous said...

"And unless we, the voters, are willing to exercise our votes to install a govt which is committed to repeal the OSA "

Install a government you should approve probably the one that will prosecute muslim judging from your anti Islam post. Good luck convincing muslims on that one.

You got nothing but baseless hates on all things islamic simply because we believe in one God and his messangers. All I need to do to convince my "liberal" Muslim of the folly of their views is to show them your posts.

seantang said...

Install a government you should approve probably the one that will prosecute muslim judging from your anti Islam post. Good luck convincing muslims on that one.

I think you mean persecute, instead of prosecute.

In any case, like I've been telling religious supremecists like you... I'm NOT ANTI ISLAM. I'm ANTI Muslims who make their INTERPRETATION OF ISLAM a problem for Non-Muslims.

Now, read that sentence again very slowly and in its entirety.

You got nothing but baseless hates on all things islamic simply because we believe in one God and his messangers.

Nope. I don't hate all things Islamic. I just hate when non-Muslims are subjected to stipulations that should only apply to Muslims.

I don't mind nor particularly care if Muslims believe in one God or his messengers. But I do mind when non-Muslims are forced to also bear the consequences of this belief.

All I need to do to convince my "liberal" Muslim of the folly of their views is to show them your posts.

Go on. I don't mind the site hits. Besides, I'm not trying to appeal to "liberal" Muslims. As far as I'm concerned, I don't care what type of Muslim you/they are as long as non-Muslims have their rightful day under the Malaysian sun.

My plea in this blog is to fair-minded, decent people. People who believe that fairness, justice and decency to all humans is the true message of their religion, whatever that religion might be. If you imply that "liberal" Muslims (which you have confessed not to be) are such people, then so be it.

sidelined said...

Liberal Muslims will probably agree with Sean, rather than blindly hate anyone who has the slightest criticism of them. If you want them to hate Sean like you do, you can show these posts to those who subscribe to the radical/extreme interpretation of Islam.

seantang said...

Thanks sidelined.

seantang said...

Back to the original topic, here's an editorial by TheSun's Asst News Editor, Jacqueline Ann Surin entitled "An anxious time in police custody."

She yields more timeline details of the inappropriate police action against Nathaniel Tan.

An anxious time in police custody.
Jacqueline Ann Surin

When Nathaniel Tan was picked up by the police from his PJ office last Friday at about 4.30pm, he “disappeared” for several hours before his family and friends were officially informed that he had been arrested under the Official Secrets Act (OSA) and was being detained.

Worried for the Parti Keadilan Rakyat (PKR) webmaster’s safety, especially in a country that allows for detention without trial under the Internal Security Act and where detainees have reported being tortured, text messages were circulated about his “disappearance”.

The message was clear: the opposition was being targeted, and Nathaniel had suddenly become one of its casualties.

Desperate, after repeated requests for information from the police yielded nothing, Nathaniel’s girlfriend lodged a missing person’s report at 8p.m. It was only at 9 p.m. that Nathaniel’s father, Ignatius, was informed by the police that his son was being detained.

According to Ignatius’ affidavit filed in the High Court, he was told to contact investigating officer DSP Victor Sanjos, but when Nathaniel’s lawyer called Sanjos, she was told he knew nothing about the case as he had just returned from Sydney.

She had to make another phone call, this time to the head of the cyber crime division, before she was told that Nathaniel would be detained until the next day under the OSA.

At 9.30a.m. on Saturday, the affidavit continues, Nathaniel’s other lawyer Sivarasa Rasiah called Sanjos and requested to be informed if Nathaniel would be brought to court to be remanded.

A lawyer’s letter was also faxed to the police for the lawyers to have access to their client and to ensure that Nathaniel was represented in court.

At 11.45a.m., Sivarasa received a phone call – not from the police but from another lawyer who was in court and happened to recognise Nathaniel – that his client was already in court waiting to be remanded.

It was only at 12.06p.m. that Sanjos informed Sivarasa that Nathaniel would be remanded even though obviously, the decision to apply for remand had been made earlier.

If there had not been a queue for other remand cases that morning, it is possible that Nathaniel’s lawyers would not have made his hearing on time.

At court, Sivarasa requested to meet with his client while waiting for his hearing. The police said ‘No’. Sivarasa then applied to the magistrate to have private access to his client so he could take instruction. It was granted but within ten minutes, police officers appeared within hearing and attempted to look at the lawyer’s notes.

Because of the interference, the lawyers could no longer speak freely with their client and subsequently, were denied further access by the magistrate before the hearing began.

Nathaniel was eventually remanded for four days even though the police had asked for a 14-day remand order to investigate his alleged ownership of documents containing allegations of corruption against Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Johari Baharom.

Nathaniel was released on Tuesday evening but it’s left to be seen if he will finally be charged under the OSA.

But notwithstanding the case the police may or may not have against Nathaniel, his experience with the police, and the attempts at obstructing justice, are not new. It is these kinds of police action which give credence to statements by the opposition and civil rights groups that the police are “unprofessional”, “high-handed”, and target the opposition.

The police have a duty to enforce the law, but it is also in their interest to conduct themselves in ways which respect the civil liberties of those they arrest and detain.

There are no indications that Nathaniel did not cooperate fully with the police. Yet, it took the police three-and-a-half hours to inform his concerned family about his whereabouts.

And despite the right to legal representation at a remand hearing, the police chose to inform Nathaniel’s lawyers of his remand hearing only after he had been brought to court. What’s worse, his lawyers were clearly prevented from taking instruction from their client. Surely, these are attempts at obstructing justice?

It’s not easy being in the political opposition. This is true not just of Malaysia, but of most other countries, where incumbency affords those in power the advantages of access to state-funded agents (e.g. the police) and agencies, development funds and the media.

In Nathaniel’s case, the way the police acted, it’s hard not to conclude that his arrest and detention are not politically-motivated, and that the opposition are, indeed, being harassed.

polis pandai said...

As usual, the PDRM is the last party to approach for justice and law-abiding personnels.