200 lawyers protest against arrests
About 200 lawyers have gathered at the lobby of the Jalan Duta court complex in Kuala Lumpur this morning to protest against the arrest of five of their colleagues late last night.
The group of lawyers, growing in numbers by the minute, are waiting for their colleagues to be brought to court from the Brickfields police station where they were held along with 15 others.
The five are Fadiah Nadwa Fikri, Syuhaini Safwan, Puspawati Rosman, Ravinder Singh and Murnie Hidayah Anuar.
They were arrested for alleged illegal assembly after attempting to provide legal assistance to a group of individuals who arrested for holding a candlelight vigil in support of Bersih activist Wong Chin Huat, who himself was detained under the Sedition Act.
Bar Council chairperson Ragunath Kesavan, who had lodged a police report last night after being denied access to the detainees, is livid by the police action.
He told reporters at the scene that the Bar will be holding an emergency general meeting (EGM) next Friday (May 15) to discuss the police actions which are deemed to be inappropriate.
He said that the police should have shown respect to the lawyers who were at the police station to perform their duties.
"They could have shown some kindness and civility to the lawyers," he added.
In an earlier statement, Ragunath did not hold back in his criticism against the men-in-blue.
“We are shocked and disgusted by this blatant transgression of the rule of law. By their action, the police personnel in question have demonstrated utter disrespect and blatant disregard for the criminal justice system that they are duty-bound to uphold and protect," he said in the statement.
“They have violated the specific provisions in the Criminal Procedure Code guaranteeing access to lawyers. Although there is an exception to this provision, it cannot by any stretch of the imagination be turned into a right to arrest lawyers who are waiting to render legal representation to their clients.”
He said that the police action made an “absolute mockery of the constitutional right to legal representation and is a travesty of justice”.
IGP asked to explain the 'gross abuse of power'
Ragunath demanded police chief Musa Hassam to explain such a gross abuse of police power.
“This unprecedented conduct by the police has far-reaching consequences. It means arrested persons can be denied access to their lawyers without challenge. And when their lawyers are denied access and are forced to wait outside the police station, the lawyers themselves are at risk of arrest.”
He saluted the lawyers who “without regard for their own safety and well-being, voluntarily went to the aid of those arrested, only to be arrested themselves”.
“They have exhibited great courage and by their actions have demonstrated the highest standards of the Malaysian Bar. Their exemplary sense of duty and professionalism stands in stark contrast to the despicable conduct of the police.”
Among those in the crowd this morning, apart from Ragunath, were senior lawyers Sulaiman Abdullah, Tommy Thomas and Ranjit Singh.
It is uncertain if court cases are affected as a result of this protest.
Meanwhile a slight commotion occurred during the protest when the police tried to intervene to urge the lawyers to disperse.
One senior lawyer especially was very vocal in reproaching the police for trying to interfere. However cool heads prevailed and the police left the lawyers to their own.
By 11.30am, the lawyers have started to disperse in small groups after Ragunath told them that their five arrested colleagues will be released soon on police bail. - malaysiakini