Videos on phones not enough to show one is a terrorist, say lawyers

Critics say many Sosma detainees are treated as terror suspects based on the contents of their mobile phones. (Reuters pic)

PETALING JAYA: Two lawyers say merely keeping video clips and pictures about Islamic State (IS) on mobile phones should not be taken to mean a person is a terrorist.

M Ramachelvam, who heads the Malaysian Bar’s Institutional and Law Reform Committee, said Whatsapp messages, videos and pictures linked to IS, which currently warrant arrest under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act or Sosma, do not automatically impute guilt.

“There needs to be a thorough investigation to see if a person is involved in terrorist activities. The Bar Council is of the opinion that Sosma is an unnecessary Act that needs to be stopped,” he said.

Ramachelvam said terrorism-related activities were already accounted for in the Evidence Act and the Penal Code.

His comments come after about 100 family members of Sosma detainees protested outside Parliament last week.

Many of them claimed their family members were detained due to Whatsapp messages, pictures and videos related to terrorism stored in their mobile phones.

Lawyer Adi Zulkarnain Zulkafli, who advises Desak Sampai Mansuh, a pressure group demanding the abolition of Sosma, said there were loosely-defined labels under the Act.

He said the definitions of terrorist or terrorism should not simply include anyone with relevant pictures and videos, saying there should be further deliberations to decide if a person was involved in terrorism.

Meanwhile, a 59-year-old woman from Klang, whose son was detained under Sosma in March last year, told FMT at the protest: “I feel that having pictures and videos openly found on the Internet is your personal right. Your mobile phone is a personal item.”

The woman, who preferred to stay anonymous, hoped the government would abolish Sosma and release the detainees who, she claimed, often faced abuse.

“They should not have to go to prison because of pictures and videos found on their handphones,” she said.

Rusni Abdul Razak, 50, said her husband is currently facing a seven-year jail sentence for transferring money to their son who is in Syria.

“I accept it if what my husband did was wrong, if they want to punish him as a warning to others, but the punishment should be proportional to the crime,” she said.