AG considers amending charges to allow Sosma detainees to be tried

Attorney-General Tommy Thomas.

PETALING JAYA: Attorney-General (AG) Tommy Thomas is considering amending the charges against some 400 individuals detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act 2012 (Sosma) to allow them to be tried.

This follows the agreement by a group of Sosma detainees at the Sungai Buloh Prison on Sunday to end the hunger strike they began last Friday.

Deputy Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Hanipa Maidin, who had met with the detainees over the matter, said he had consulted Thomas about their remand under Sosma.

As of Aug 27, he said, 442 detainees had been remanded under Section 13 of Sosma for being members of various organised criminal groups as well as consorting or assisting such groups, which were offences under Chapter VIB of the Penal Code.

“For the 442 detainees, the AG, in his capacity as public prosecutor, is considering whether his chambers can amend the charges against them ‘inter alia’ for the following offences:

“Section 43 of the Societies Act 1966 – being members of unlawful societies – and Chapter VIII of the Penal Code, Sections 141 until 158 – offences against public tranquillity.”

In a statement today, Hanipa said the process would take some time and had to be on a case-by-case basis.

He added that the Criminal Procedure Code, not Sosma, would govern procedural aspects if the charges were amended.

He said the public prosecutor would prioritise female offenders, juveniles and sick or infirm detainees.

“When amended charges are made, the accused can either plead guilty to them or claim trial.

“In the event that these offenders claim trial to the amended charge or charges, bail may be applied by them but it is up to the discretion of the court whether or not to grant bail,” he added.

Regarding the criminal charges against another 22 detainees for offences under Chapter VIA of the Penal Code involving terrorist activities, the Sepang MP said it was his view that these cases were best left to the AG until the Cabinet makes a final decision on Sosma.

In July, Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad said the government would abolish Sosma, which is widely seen as a replacement of the Internal Security Act, repealed in 2012.

The previous Barisan Nasional government had defended the law, saying it was needed to deter extremists, including those linked to the Islamic State.

Under Sosma, a person can be detained for a maximum of 28 days and police can delay his or her access to family and legal counsel for up to 48 hours after being arrested.