Immigration officials will be putting William Bourdon and his wife on the first flight back to France today.
PETALING JAYA: Prominent French human rights lawyer William Bourdon will be deported tonight after being detained for more than four hours by immigration and police officials at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
Bourdon has been served the deportation order and he will be leaving Kuala Lumpur at 11.30pm along with his wife Lea Forestier to Paris.
Bourdon, in a brief statement, said that the Malaysian police had ordered him to leave the country as soon as possible.
He said when he explained that his return ticket to Paris was only on Sunday, he was told that he would be detained until then.
“We have decided to find the earliest return flight possible at our own costs. I don’t understand this decision as no explanation has been given to me so far,” he added in his hand-written note (photo, below).
“I hereby declare that I have acted as the lawyer for Suaram in full respect of my duties and rules and in perfect compliance with national and international laws.
“I consider that this deportation decision is a breach in the right to freely exercise my profession as a lawyer,” he said.
The Immigration Department said that Bourdon was being deported for violating the terms of his social visit pass.
Bourdon had arrived here from Penang, where he spoke at an event organised by rights group Suaram regarding the controversial Scorpene submarine deal. He was scheduled to give another speech tonight in Petaling Jaya on the submarine scandal, followed by another in Ipoh tomorrow.
But when his Malaysia Airlines flight landed at 11.40am, three immigration officials came on board to escort him off the aircraft. Bourdon was taken to the holding centre where he was questioned for four hours.
Suaram executive director, Cynthia Gabriel told FMT that she managed to speak to Bourdon and that he was being held in the Immigration Enforcement Division, pending the deportation.
“The officials asked him to sign deportation papers in Bahasa Malaysia and of course he refused,” she said. “The French Embassy officials are currently in negotiations with the immigration officials. But the Bourdons are definitely going back to France tonight.”
Meanwhile Fadiah Nadwa Fikri from Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) said that Forestier was released earlier and that she was on her way to the division where Bourdon is being held.
“He has been denied access to lawyers which is ridiculously absurd. And none of the officials have issued any statement on the grounds for his detention.”
According to Fadiah, Forestier was “very shocked and upset over the arbitrariness of situation.”
“Only other experience of William and I denied entry was Tunisia under BenAli… there was a banana republic!,” Forestier was reported to have said, according to tweets from local activists.
The authorities also failed to acknowledge the fact that Bourdon was Suaram’s lawyer on the submarine case and that his deporation would be a breach of his right to perform his duty as a lawyer.
Subang MP Sivarasa Rasiah, and Batu MP Tian Chua, are also at KLIA but their attempts to meet with Bourdon have been denied.
Meanwhile the French Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Bernard Valero said that their main concern was to ensure Bourdon and his wife were safely in the plane to Paris.
He said the French embassy in Kuala Lumpur had done its best to ensure the wellbeing of Bourdon and Forestier.
“Our policy is to make every effort to ensure that international laws are respected,”said Valero.
The submarine deal
In June 2002, the Malaysian government signed an agreement with French DCNS and Spainish Navantia for the procurement of two Scorpene class submarines.
The procurement contract was through direct negotiation with the manufacturing companies, said to be with the service of Perimekar Sdn Bhd, linked to academic Abdul Razak Baginda.
The Scorpene issue had been mired in controversy with allegations of kickbacks and linked to the murder of Mongolian national Altantuya Shaariibuu.
Razak, a close aide of Prime Minister Najib Tun Razak, was charged with abetting the murder but was later acquitted.
The controversy had even forced Najib to swear on the Quran to clear his name.
The French authorities are currently probing the deal.
In December 2009, Suaram filed a complaint with the French courts asking for access to information regarding government contracts signed with Perimekar and other information classified as official secrets in Malaysia.
In April 2010, the French courts accepted the request to investigate the claim of corruption for a payment amounting to 114 million euros from DCNS to Perimekar.
[With additional reporting by Céline Boileau for FMT from Paris.]
Latest update at 11.10pm with reactions from the French authorities and the Malaysian Immigration Department.