Saturday, July 23, 2011

‘Charge MACC officers with criminal offence’

PETALING JAYA: Attorney-General Abdul Gani Patail should consider criminal charges instead of merely taking disciplinary action against MACC officers who drove Selangor political aide Teoh Beng Hock to suicide.
Lawyer representing the Teoh-family, Gobind Singh Deo, said that Abdul Gani should consider using Section 330 of the Penal Code which is the offence of “voluntarily causing hurt to extort confession…”. He argued that he believes that “hurt” should encompass mental injury as well.
Abdul Gani was quoted in the local daily New Straits Times on Friday that action against three MACC officers “for their aggressive, inappropriate and (therefore) in violation of the regulations”, as indicted in the Royal Commission of Inquiry (RCI) report, is to be read with the understanding of the word “regulations”.

“If it refers to the standard operating procedure of the MACC, it then becomes a matter of discipline… Hence, the officers are to be dealt with by the disciplinary body of the Public Service Department,” he was quoted as saying. He also said:”Conducting interrogations with the intent to derive information but in the process, driving someone to commit suicide is different from doing so with the intent to make him commit suicide.”
“Although this does not mean we accept the RCI findings in any way, the report definitely allows for a criminal prosecution. The AG should look it the whole thing holistically, and he should very least consider this, or else explain why not,” Gobind told FMT.
The DAP leader argued that Section 330 was designed to protect those people who are being abused in the course of interrogations and it was normal that torture would not only be physical but also mental.
“The illustration given in the section of the law refers to the word torture. Hurt must include injury to the mind and mental distress. Isn’t that what RCI said happened to Teoh ?”
“I believe that the AG would have a case,” said Gobind.
Test case

Although there has not been a precedent, this can be a test case, he said. “If you look in a dictionary, what does the word “hurt” mean? For the word injury, its already been accepted that it includes the mind,” he said.
Gobind said that the inaction of the AG would seriously hurt the public confidence in having any RCI.
“After the V K Lingam case, what the public wants to find out is if any RCI would result in any action. Now that you have such findings in a report, and of such strongly worded words against certain officers, it is now up to the AG to instill confidence that the findings and recommendations of an RCI is still relevant and important,” said Gobind.
“What use is an RCI when its not going to translate into any action against anyone? We should look further than just discplinary action,” he said.
“The courts took great pains to record the testimony of 70 or so witnesses, the long time and costs… and then all you get is a booklet?” asked Gobind.
Asked if the AG should consider other charges, Gobind said it was up to the prosecutors to decide if they could bring about a charge of manslaughter or criminal intimidation.
The five-man RCI, headed by Judge Datuk James Foong, completed its report on June 15 this year after having heard testimony from 70 witnesses. It released its report yesterday and it is now available for the public to purchase.
Teoh, a 30-year-old DAP political aide of Selangor state exco Ean Yong Hian Wah, was found dead on July 16, 2009 on the fifth floor corridor of Plaza Masalam in Shah Alam after he was questioned overnight by MACC officers at their then Selangor headquarters on the 14th floor.
A coroner’s inquest had in January this year returned an “open verdict”, ruling out both suicide and homicide some 18 months after Teoh’s death.

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