19 July 2013
Lawyers for Liberty are shocked and appalled by the heavy handed criminal prosecution of Alvin Tan and Vivian Lee at the Kuala Lumpur Sessions Court yesterday that was further compounded when they were denied bail by judge Murtazadi Amran.
They were charged under section 4 (1) (c) of the Sedition Act 1948 and Section 298A (1) (a) of the Penal Code for their Ramadan “bak kut teh” greeting on their Facebook page and section 5 (1) of the Film Censorship Act 2002 for uploading pornography onto their blog.
Although the charges under the Penal Code and the Film Censorship Act were “non-bailable” offences, in practice bail is normally given (as in cases of more serious offences like rape, criminal breach of trust, robbery, cheating, corruption, drug possession and manslaughter) unless clear evidence can be shown that the accused were likely to abscond, interfere with witnesses or reoffend.
In this particular case, the duo had cooperated fully with the police and the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) and no evidence was offered by DPP Noorin Badaruddin other than her flimsy statement that both accused were infamous and had a tendency to upload pictures that could arouse public outrage.
This is wrong in law and by denying bail at this stage clearly showed bad faith and an attempt to punish the duo even before their guilt has been proven.
While the duo’s posting is clearly insensitive and foolish, the reaction of the authorities from the police, MCMC, Attorney-General’s Chambers to senior government ministers smacked of overkill, disproportionality, double standards, selectiveness and bad faith – when much more offensive and widely published statements made by pro-Umno figures Ibrahim Ali, Ridhuan Tee, Zulkifli Noordin, Mohd Noor Abdullah including inciting bloodshed and violence, insults against ethnic Chinese and Indians, their beliefs and cultures have not led to any arrest much less criminal prosecution.
We call upon the authorities to discharge their duties in a professional manner, to exercise even handedness and restraint and not to overreact and make an example out of Alvin and Vivian in order to score political points. At the very least, they should be provided a fair trial and be granted bail pending their trial.
Co-founder & Adviser
Lawyers for Liberty
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