Syrian refugee charged with kidnapping countryman in Penang

Syrian refugee Maher being led out of the Magistrate’s Court in George Town, Penang, today.

GEORGE TOWN: A Syrian refugee was today charged in the Magistrate’s Court with kidnapping a countryman two weeks ago in Tanjung Tokong and demanding a ransom of RM100,000.

Maher, who goes by only one name, was accused of kidnapping Maher Kattan near an Arab food outlet in Tanjung Tokong at about 3.30pm on June 6.

He was charged under Section 3(1) of the Kidnapping Act 1961, which carries the death penalty or life imprisonment if found guilty.

No plea was recorded.

However, Maher, 31, kept saying he was not guilty in English to the court interpreter reading out his charge.

Magistrate Umma Devi Loganathan told him no bail could be offered for this charge.

Maher’s lawyer, Sukhindarpal Singh, told the court the accused had had no chance to contact his relatives or next of kin as the police had refused to allow him to do so.

Sukhindarpal said police had gone against Section 28A of the Criminal Procedure Code, which says an accused should be given a chance to make a phone call as part of the rights of those arrested.

He said Maher was also a UNHCR card holder.

Umma then told deputy public prosecutor Mohammad Syafiq Nasrullah Saleem Ali to instruct the investigating officer to allow the accused his right to a phone call.

She told the prosecutor to order the police to temporarily return his phone so that he could call his family.

She then set July 25 for mention.