Malaysian Police Interview Ex-PM Mahathir

BenarNews Staff
151106-MY-mahathir-620 Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad appears at the Bersih rally in Kuala Lumpur, Aug. 29, 2015.

Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad said little during a 45-minute police interview in Kuala Lumpur on Friday, after authorities opened a criminal defamation probe against him for criticizing the current prime minister and other ruling party officials at a rally.

“They asked questions. I said I will not answer them,” Mahathir told reporters following the interview in his office at the Albukhary Foundation, the Malay Mail reported.

He said he did not know if he would be arrested, and that the decision was up to the police.

The nation’s police chief later confirmed to BenarNews that several police officers visited the 90-year-old former prime minister at his office on Friday and took a statement from him.

Last month, Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi said authorities were investigating Mahathir for alleged defamation under Section 500 of the country’s Penal Code. A defamation charge carries a potential two-year prison sentence or a fine –or both – according to The Malaysian Insider (TMI).

“He currently is being investigated under Section 500 of the Penal Code,” Police Inspector-General Khalid Abu Bakar told BenarNews on Friday.

In Late October, Khalid told the Insider that Mahathir was being investigated for comments he made during Bersih 4.0, a massive rally that took place in Kuala Lumpur on Aug. 29-30. At the demonstration, Mahathir and others speakers called for Prime Minister Najib Razak to resign over a corruption scandal tied to 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB), a state fund.

Mahathir also then publicly criticized division heads from the ruling United Malays National Organization (UMNO) party of taking bribes, TMI reported.

“The only way to return rule of law is to remove this prime minister, and to remove him, the people must show people’s power,” the Malay Mail quoted Mahathir as saying during the rally. “We should move a motion of no confidence in Parliament.”

‘Political donations’

Mahathir, who served as prime minister from 1981 to 2003, has regularly criticized Najib. But he started to call for his resignation after allegations of corruption against Najib emerged following news reports in July that nearly U.S. $700 million (2.6 billion ringgit) of money from the 1MDB fund were deposited into the prime minister’s personal bank accounts. The deposits were made in 2013, during the run-up to the country’s last general election, according to news reports.

Officials close to Najib say the money transfers were legitimate "political donations" from unidentified Middle Eastern sources but have given no details. The accounts have been closed, but it is unclear where the money went.

Keeping it simple

On Friday, Haniff Khatri Abdulla, a lawyer representing Mahathir, said his team advised their client not to answer some questions and that the former PM “kept it simple.”

Mahathir, “was very clear with what was happening and his answers were given with full clarity,” Haniff told reporters.

The attorney said there should be no need for additional questioning as Mahathir had already told police what needed to be said.

“If there’s evidence [of wrongdoing], just arrest and charge [Mahathir],” Haniff added.


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