PETALING JAYA: Lawyers have welcomed Attorney-General Tommy Thomas’ decision to drop charges against 12 individuals accused of having links to the now-defunct Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
The men were detained under the Security Offences (Special Measures) Act, or Sosma, last October for their alleged links to the LTTE – a defunct militant organisation that fought to create an independent Tamil state in Sri Lanka.
Thomas today said there was “no realistic prospect for conviction” for any of the 34 charges brought against the 12 men, adding that the photos and other representations found in their possession did not mean they “should be regarded as a terrorist”.
All of them had photos – either on their mobile phones or Facebook accounts – of slain LTTE leader V Prabhakaran and other LTTE leaders.
“This is a great joy for us and we’re all very surprised,” said lawyer Saraswathy Kandasami, who is serving as an adviser to the 12 families.
“If you ask me, I think the AG has carefully studied this case and has realised the charges are frivolous.
“He has appreciated the facts of the case and is not acting out of passion or emotion,” she told FMT.
The 12 men have repeatedly denied any link to the LTTE, stating that they only sympathised with the plight of the Tamil minority in Sri Lanka – where a bloody 27-year civil war has claimed the lives of between 60,000 and 100,000 Tamil civilians, according to figures from the United Nations.
Two DAP lawmakers were among the 12 men charged – Seremban Jaya assemblyman P Gunasekaran and Gadek assemblyman G Saminathan.
Calling it a “victory for reason”, lawyer A Srimurugan said that it should not have taken so long for the charges to be dropped.
“It’s a bit late in the day, but I’m glad that in his wisdom, he has made the right decision,” he told FMT.
“I understand the AG will be retiring soon, and it’s great that he will always be remembered for this,” he added.
While Saraswathy was unsure whether the men would be immediately released, Srimurugan said that the men would still have to go to court as they were being held under judicial custody.
As Sosma detainees, they are not allowed bail and have been detained for more than 130 days.
Srimurugan said the lawyers would now have to write to the court to ask for an early mention date – during which the prosecution would inform the court that the AG had decided to drop the charges.
“Thereafter, they should be given a discharge amounting to an acquittal,” said Srimurugan.
Rights group Suaram, who has actively campaigned for the men to be released, urged Thomas and counter-terrorism chief Normah Ishak to revisit all Sosma arrests.
Suaram’s executive director Sevan Doraisamy told FMT there are currently more than 1,000 people detained under the act based on their calculations.
Noting that there are groups of people who have been arrested under Sosma for possessing photos and videos linked to the Islamic State, Doraisamy said there was now a “big question mark” hanging over all Sosma arrests.
“Some of them are innocent. They don’t even know what the Islamic State is about but have photos and videos – which the AG now says is not sufficient to prosecute,” said Doraisamy.
Malaysian Bar president Abdul Fareed Abdul Gafoor, meanwhile, said the public would want to know why the men were charged in the first place.
“It is disheartening that citizens could be arrested, charged and incarcerated without bail for a prolonged period on charges with no prospect of conviction,” he said in a statement.
Fareed said the Bar had repeatedly called for the repeal of all oppressive and draconian laws including Sosma.
“Draconian laws have no place in a democratic nation, and are an affront to the principles of natural justice. The Malaysian Bar calls upon the government to demonstrate full commitment to its election manifesto by abolishing such oppressive laws without further delay.”