Wednesday, March 9, 2011

‘Violent’ MACC officer grilled over reports

KUALA LUMPUR: A Selangor Malaysian Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) officer today admitted that police reports have been lodged against him for using violence during interrogation.
However, assistant enforcement officer Mohd Ashraf Mohd Yunus, 27, told the Royal Commission of Inquiry investigating Teoh Beng Hock’s death that he could not recall how many such reports were lodged.
“You don’t remember?” the witness was quizzed by RCI chairman James Foong.
“Do u want us to remind you? We can refresh your memory, do you want us to remind you or do you want to tell us on your own?”
“Was it nine (reports)?” he added, but Ashraf shook his head and repeated that he could not remember.

Bar Council’s N Nahendran had earlier asked Ashraf if he was ever accused of any disciplinary problems in MACC, to which the witness replied in the negative.
But the MACC officer answered “yes” when the lawyer asked if there were any police reports lodged against him for using violence during interrogation.
Nahendran then proceeded to ask Ashraf a series of questions:
“Did you at any time, hit Teoh on his head? Did you at any time punch or hit his chest? Did you at any time hit his left chest with a stick or rotan?
“Did you force him to sit on a block of ice? Did u use a neckhold or chokehold? Did you at any time press on or step on his hand ? Did you tie his hands to the chair?”
Ashraf replied “no” to all the questions.
No legal authority to interrogate
Today, it was also revealed that Ashraf, who had assisted another officer Arman Alias, in questioning Teoh on the night of July 15, 2009, had no legal authority to interrogate the DAP aide.
Bar Council’s Edmund Bon revealed that an MACC complaints committee, which undertook an internal investigation after Teoh’s death and reported its findings on April 26, 2010, found that Ashraf’s interrogation of Teoh was illegal.
Bon: Do u know the law under which you interviewed Teoh?
Ashraf: Yes, Section 30(1) of the Anti-Corruption Act 2009
Bon: Do you agree with me that this requires a statement be written during an interrogation?
Ashraf: I don’t agree.
Bon: Please read it yourself, Section 30(8) of the Act says that in any interrogation, you need to have a written statement. Did you and Arman do this?
Ashraf: No
Bon: Do you agree that you have breached the law?
Ashraf: No
Bon: Okay my question is simple. You always tell the inquiry that you follow orders only. The MACC complaints committee says you have no powers to take ‘intelligence’ statements. Will you, knowing that today, do such a thing if ordered to do so even though it’s against the law?
Ashraf: Not anymore.
Earlier, Bon also caught Ashraf contradicting himself.
“You had told the inquiry yesterday that after questioning Teoh, you had gone back to your office to rest and also do work, but why in three other statements (to the police, inquest, and internal inquiry) you had only stated that you wanted to rest? Why are your answers different?” asked the lawyer.
To which, Ashraf replied:” In my mind, I was resting as the work I was doing was not really investigations.”
When asked, Ashraf told the commission that a civilian should not be in the MACC office without supervision and the person’s every action should be monitored.
Even though he admitted to being the one who asked Teoh to wait, he said that there were no orders to monitor Teoh at the time.
Ashraf was also caught contradicting himself when Bon asked him when he had looked through Teoh’s witness statement to MACC.
Bon: When did you go through Teoh’s statement?
Ashraf: A week or two after July 16
Bon: You said in the inquest that it was immediately, don’t tell me a few weeks, or else we would be investigating whether you have been coached to answer questions.
Ashraf: Yes, now I think I read the statement immediately.
Ashraf also told the commission that he was instructed by the Selangor MACC head of investigation unit Hairul Ilham Hamzah to complete investigations on that day itself.
“Because you were directed to do so, if Teoh tried to leave, you would have stopped him from leaving, yes?” asked Bon.
Ashraf initially said “no”, but then conceded that he would be forced to ask Teoh to stay due to the instructions from his superior.
“In short, you were to complete investigations on Teoh come hell or highwater,” interjected commissioner T Selventhiranathan.
“I could not have put it in a better way, Yang Ariff,” added Bon.
Unhappy with police in interrogation

Meanwhile, Foong also noted that Mohd Ashraf has the “worse number of complaints” lodged against him in MACC compared to other officers.
Foong then asked: “After you were investigated by on these complaints, did you try to change your attitude and ways of interrogation?”, to which Mohd Ashraf replied: “No, because after this I did not
interrogate anymore.”
Foong also noted that the police had investigated Ashraf but was not questioned internally by MACC.
Mohd Ashraf told the commission of his experience being interrogated himself by the Selangor police the day after Teoh died.
“The police had interrogated me as if I had murdered Teoh. The interview lasted until 12am,” he said.
Mohd Ashraf said the police at the Selangor police headquarters asked him if he had slapped Teoh or used any other objects to injure Teoh.
Asked how he felt to be subjected to the same treatment by the police on being interrogated, Mohd Ashraf said he merely felt tired.
“You’ve been trained to be an interrogator, you cannot feel how a public person would feel if called in for the first time and detained for questioning for hours by the enforcement authorities, but how would you feel, if you were in the position of Teoh Beng Hock?” asked Foong.
Ashraf: “I would feel stressed.”
During questioning by MACC lawyer Muhammad Shafee Abdullah, Mohd Ashraf told the court  how he tagged documents (belonging to state exco member Ean Yong Hian Wah) that involved more than RM10,000 but did not find any quotations for them.
He said that the target was Ean Yong and that the objective of his questioning was to find out if there were any false claims.
Criticised over selective amnesia
On Teoh’s appearance during interrogation, Mohd Ashraf added on to what he had said yesterday.
“Before the documents were shown, he leaned back and seem relaxed. And after he was shown the four documents and he straightened his body and didn’t lean back until we finished. He also kept on sucking his teeth like someone with a toothache.”
However, Mohd Ashraf’s detailed description earned him a jibe from Selventhiranathan, who said: “Oh, so now your amnesia has dissappeared?”
Later in the afternoon, the commission heard from Mohd Nazri Ibrahim, the officer who recorded Teoh’s statement before adjourning proceedings.
The inquiry continues tomorrow with MACC officer Arman Alias taking the stand.
Teoh, the political aide of Selangor executive councillor Ean Yong of DAP, was found dead on July 16, 2009, on the fifth floor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam.
He had been interrogated the night before by MACC officers at their office, located on the 14th floor of the same building.
The MACC was investigating the alleged misuse of Selangor government allocations.
On Jan 5, coroner Azmil Muntapha Abas returned an open verdict in the inquest into Teoh’s death, ruling out both suicide and homicide.
Subsequently, the government caved in to public pressure and established the commission now sitting.
It is investigating both the cause of Teoh’s death and MACC’s interrogation methods. The inquiry is scheduled to end on April 25.

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