Victims of police brutality during the April 28 Bersih rally relate their ordeal of being on the receiving end of ‘karate chops’ and ‘flying kicks’.

 KUALA LUMPUR: Mohd Saufi Othman, 29, was attempting to leave the city on the evening of April 28 when he was confronted by a group of policemen who began raining blows on him.

In the midst of the assault, he felt the barrel of a gun shoved into his chest. The bruise is only just beginning to fade.

Satesh Kumar, 29, was recording the events taking place around the Masjib Jamek LRT station when another group of policemen dragged him away from his mother and girlfriend.

He was kicked and stepped on before being hauled to Dataran Merdeka where the other Bersih detainees were grouped.

Along the way, a traffic policemen stopped him and glanced around before delivering a swift punch to his gut. Satesh was released from Pulapol at 3am the next day.

These were two of the testimonies from the 19 victims of police brutality during the Bersih 3.0 rally last month. Two of the 19 were reporters who decried being beaten up for carrying out their work.

At a press conference here today, the victims spoke of being beaten by unidentified policemen for walking on the streets, recording the on-goings, helping another victim or for simply catching their breath on the sidewalk.

‘Karate chops’ and ‘flying kicks’

“I tried to help my friend who was lying on the road but the policemen who were kicking and punching him turned on me,” said Hanafi Ahmad Zubidin in his 30s. “I had no choice but to run.”

“The police saw me recording them beating people in the Masjib Jamek station and they set upon me too,” recalled Daniel, 39. “I was pushed down a staircase and have five stitches at the back of my right ear,” he added.

But Daniel was luckier than Asrul Wadi, 26, who wound up with nine stitches near his right eye and two more near his left. He has consulted three eye specialists and is facing the possibility of blindness.

Many of those detained had similar stories of being hauled through Dataran Merdeka past two lines of policemen who dealt out punches, “karate chops” and “flying kicks”. Members of PAS’ Unit Amal team who were arrested were reportedly made to walk past the police line twice.

Those who were already in the Black Maria remembered police literally throwing the injured into the trucks and kicking them inside. Some were locked up in back of the trucks for two hours with only a small opening above them for ventilation.

Bersih: Organised pattern

Bersih 3.0 leader Hishamuddin Rais highlighted what he said was an “organised pattern” in the acts of police brutality on that day.

“All the cops who were beating up people wore no name tags or numbers,” he stated. “Groups of them assaulted a single person and they also targetted those with recording devices.”

“There was an organised pattern that day which means that there was a methodology to the brutality. And that means that there were instructions from the top.”

Bersih co-chairperson A Samad Said added that the bulk of assaults had taken place after the rally’s end time of 4pm.

“I am certain there were specific orders for this,” he said, echoing Hishammudin’s allegation. “And we cannot allow such a thing to happen.”

Lack of transparency

The national laureate also read out a press statement by Bersih expressing deep concern over the lack of transparency and information on the status of investigations into the police force as well as the Home Ministry’s failure to provide a press release of the 100 people who have yet to surrender to the authorities.

“Every single day since the Bersih 3.0 rally, fresh allegations of police abuse have surfaced,” Samad read. “Disappointingly to date there has been no substantial action taken by the government to bring to book those responsible for the violence perpetrated by law enforcement officials.”

“Instead police have released images of 141 individuals who are wanted for breaking the law on that day. There appears to be a witch hunt for these individuals instead of seeking out police personnel who committed violence against rally goers.”

On May 9, the police issued a seven-day deadline to the 141 individuals but only 26 have surrendered so far.

Two policemen were charged yesterday for assaulting Guang Ming daily photograper, Wong Kin Onn, but have since pleaded not guilty.

Physical, mental abuse

Samad also pointed out that those who have surrendered to the police had been subjected to physical and mental abuse.

These include Mohd Safuan Mamat 24, who claimed that he had been hit with a metal pipe when he was held overnight after turning up at the police station.

Fadiah Nadwa Fikri of Lawyers for Liberty meanwhile advised those on the list not to go to the police station alone for safety purposes.

“We will accompany you there,” she said. “People are afraid to cooperate with the police after Safuan’s case and the police must give assurance that they will treat people humanely.”

Suaram’s E Nalini added that the police intimidation is not restricted to Peninsular Malaysia but also East Malaysia where students are being threatened by the universities.

“This shows that the issue isn’t over as we are still receiving reports of intimidation to this day,” she said.

Bersih 2.0 has set up a hotline (012-3496013) and an email address ([email protected]) for the public to lodge reports of incidents of police brutality on April 28.

The Bersih rally saw some 80,000 people, mostly clad in yellow, taking to the streets demanding free and fair elections.

The peaceful protest turned violent when the barricades at Dataran Merdeka were breached, prompting the police to fire tear gas and water cannons.

By Stephanie Sta Maria | May 19, 2012