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Malaysian Court Rejects Bail for 3 Men Accused of Tamil Tiger Links

Nisha David and Noah Lee
Kuala Lumpur
2019-12-18
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Police officers escort state assemblyman and defendant Saminathan Ganesan (white shirt, in background) as he leaves the Ayer Keroh Sessions Court in Malacca, Malaysia, Dec.18, 2019.
Police officers escort state assemblyman and defendant Saminathan Ganesan (white shirt, in background) as he leaves the Ayer Keroh Sessions Court in Malacca, Malaysia, Dec.18, 2019.
Nisha David/BenarNews

A Malaysian court on Wednesday rejected the bail application of two state assemblymen and the CEO of a state-owned company, who were among 12 people arrested in October for suspected links to a Sri Lankan rebel group.

The court action marked only the second bail hearing for detainees held under a draconian national security law since it was enacted in 2012. Last month, a judge ruled that barring such hearings for suspects held under that law was unconstitutional.

At Wednesday’s hearing before the Ayer Keroh Sessions Court in Malacca state, Judge Elesabet Paya Wan ruled that assemblymen Gunasekaran Palasamy and Saminathan Ganesan, as well as the third defendant, Chandru Supermaniam, had failed to establish a case for why they should be freed on bail.

“The court rejects application for bail for all three respondents because the charges against them involve national security,” the judge said.

“The lawyer has failed to prove merit and exceptional circumstances to allow bail, so the court decided to reject the application,” she added.

The first of the two bail hearings for suspects held under the security law took place Monday in Penang state, and also involved suspects accused of having ties to the separatist Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE), or Tamil Tigers, which Malaysia branded as a terrorist group in 2014.

The Penang court rejected the bail application filed by defendants M. Pumugan, 29, and S. Thanagaraj, 26.

After Wednesday’s court session in Malacca, the attorney representing the three defendants said his clients would appeal the decision to the Kuala Lumpur High Court.

“We believe that there are strong reasons for the bail to be granted. We will also soon make an application to expedite the appeal hearing,” lawyer Ramkarpal Singh told reporters at the courthouse.

Saminathan, 34, is a member of the state assembly in Malacca, while Gunasekaran, 60, is an assemblyman in Negeri Sembilan state. Both politicians are affiliated with the Democratic Action Party, a member of Malaysia’s ruling coalition. Chandru, 38, is the chief executive of a state-linked firm.

The three were among a dozen people arrested by counter-terrorist police during a series of raids in several states in mid-October over alleged links to the Tamil Tigers, a group that waged a separatist insurgency against the Sri Lankan government for 26 years until 2009.

The 12 have been charged with giving support to the LTTE through social media and possessing items related to the group, according to the Malaysian attorney general’s office.

The defendants are being held under the Security Offenses (Special Measures) Act, or SOSMA. It allows authorities to detain suspects for 28 days without charge and bars courts from holding bail hearings for people held under the law.

The trio who appeared in court Wednesday had applied for it to hear their bail application, after a court in the capital Kuala Lumpur ruled that SOSMA was unconstitutional because of a provision that bars such hearings.

On Nov. 29, Kuala Lumpur High Court Judge Mohd Nazlan Mohd Ghazali ruled in favor of a petition filed by Saminathan, clearing the assemblyman to apply for a bail.

Last week, Attorney General Tommy Thomas announced that his office would not move to block the High Court’s decision in allowing a bail hearing in the LTTE case.

In a strongly worded statement, Thomas expressed his concerns about the provision in SOSMA that deprives suspects held under it from the prospect of bail.

“Perhaps the most pernicious feature of SOSMA is the absolute prohibition in Section 13 of bail from the time of arrest until trial, indeed, even after an acquittal by the trial court pending appeal by [the] prosecution to the apex court,” the nation’s top government lawyer said. “This means that the power of a court to hear and determine a bail application by an accused before it, which is a daily occurrence in all courts handling criminal matters, is removed.”

Thomas said the drafters of the 2012 law and the parliament under the previous government that adopted it did not take into account that, as a result of the national security law, “the judicial function of the courts is eroded by virtue of Section 13.”

“Consequently, judicial power is eroded,” the attorney general said.

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