The Malaysian Bar has expressed concern over police conducting raids on the premises of Bersih and Pusat Kesedaran Komuniti (Empower) without the presence of lawyers.
Its president, Steven Thiru, said Bersih and Empower office bearers and staff were entitled to the assistance of lawyers as police were only conducting investigations and not making arrests.
“We feel their constitutional rights have been breached by denying the presence of counsel when police were in their premises,” he said at a forum titled “Security Offences (Special Measures Act) 2012 (Sosma): The new ISA?”
Steven said by denying the presence of lawyers, police were suggesting that counsel was an obstruction to justice.
“You cannot presume and this is serious.”
Steven said Bersih and Empower could not accuse police of tampering or planting evidence if lawyers were around while the police were in the premises conducting the probe.
“Their clients need legal assistance and the lawyers could have provided that.”
Steven said they had a legal remedy for this, but did not elaborate.
It was reported that police refused the presence of lawyers when the raids were conducted.
Steven said on the other hand, suspects detained under Sosma could only be denied the right to counsel for the first 48 hours of arrest.
On Monday, police raided Empower’s premises and Inspector-General of Police Khalid Abu Bakar said they had found evidence that indicated the NGO had received funding from foreign bodies, such as Open Society Foundations.
On Nov 18, a police party had raided the Bersih office and seized documents which they claimed showed the electoral reform group had received foreign funding for its activities.
Bersih 2.0 chairperson Maria Chin Abdullah was also arrested and later detained under Sosma. She was freed 10 days later after solitary confinement.
Both organisations are being investigated for activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy, an offence under the Penal Code.
Source : V Anbalagan@FMT Reporters Online