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Lawyers, activists acquitted of illegal assembly

KUALA LUMPUR, 16 April 2009: Four lawyers and three activists were acquitted and discharged by the Sessions Court here today of being in an unlawful assembly and failing to adhere to police orders to disperse two years ago.

Judge SM Komathy Suppiah, in acquitting them without calling for their defence, said the prosecution had failed to make out a prima facie case against lawyers Amer Hamzah Arshad, Latheefa Beebi Koya, N Surendran and R Sivarasa, and activists Eric Paulsen, Johny Andu @ Abu Bakar Adnan and Nooraza Othman.

The group was also acquitted and discharged of two alternative charges of taking part in an illegal assembly and failing to adhere to police orders to disperse.

They were alleged to have committed the offences during the “People’s Freedom Walk” in front of the Kamdar building in Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman between 8.10am and 8.50am on 9 Dec 2007.

Komathi ruled that even though the defence agreed that it was an illegal gathering, the commanding officer, who also the acting Dang Wangi OCPD, Supt Che Hamzah Che Ismail, had given the group 10 minutes to walk from Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman to the Bar Council Building.

She said Che Hamzah had testified that he was not sure whether the arrest was carried out after or before the 10 minutes grace period.

“The prosecution submitted that the order to disperse was disobeyed when the accused persons failed to disperse and continued with the walk.

“In my view, the accused persons can only be said to have disobeyed the order to disperse after the lapse of the 10 minutes grace period given by Supt Hamzah,” said Komathy.

She said that in the absence of any other evidence from the prosecution to show that the group was arrested after the lapse of the 10 minutes grace period, it could not be said that they had disobeyed the order to disperse.

She added that the photographs and video recordings revealed that shops were still closed and there was minimal traffic along Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman since it was Sunday.

“The walk did not cause any obstruction to pedestrian or vehicular traffic as police were not required to put up road blocks or to divert traffic or deal with incidents of breach of peace as a result of the group walking along the road in conjunction with the World Human Rights Day,” she said.

The group was represented by counsel M Puravelan, while deputy public prosecutor Raja Rozela Raja Toran appeared for the prosecution. — Bernama

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