By Fathol Zaman Bukhari
The fate of the 13 protesters charged for illegal assembly outside the Ubaidah Mosque, Kuala Kangsar on Friday, February 6, 2009, continues to be deliberated at the Kuala Kangsar Sessions Court. The sittings on April and May recorded some startling revelations which caught both the prosecuting and defence teams flat-footed.
Prosecution witness, Lance Corporal Hamzah, a traffic policeman on duty at the scene of the incident under cross-examination by defence counsel Augustine Anthony, admitted that he had only a vague recollection of the suspect, Hj Mohd Nazeer Hameed, 54, the person alleged to have lain on the road blocking the path of the royal motorcade. Mohd Nazeer was just metres away from him. “I told him to wake up and make way for the Raja Muda’s limousine. He stood up and moved to the side”, said Hamzah. When asked whether an identification parade was made. He replied in the negative. “I identified him from still photos and video recordings shown to me by my superiors.”
Mohd Nazeer was arrested four days after the incident. He was picked by the police at his house in Pantai Remis and was remanded in custody at the Kuala Kangsar police station. Three of the 12 were apprehended on the day of the incident while the others on different dates.
Sergeant Saidi, another prosecution witness, confirmed what Corporal Hamzah had said. He too admitted to identifying Mohd Nazeer from still photos and video clips.
Inspector Ashraff acknowledged that a piece of rock, the size of a coconut, was used as a missile by the protesters to destroy public properties. He could not, however, shed any light as to the origin and purpose of rock other than to identify the rock as the one used. He did nothing, although he was the appointed Investigating Officer. Ashraff admitted this in court.
Inspector Saiful, the officer in-charge of the PORU (Public Order Riot Unit), on duty to quell the illegal assembly said that ample warning was given to the protestors. He insisted that his warnings were audible since they were made atop a police vehicle and through a loudhailer. But when a video clipping of the incident was played his voice could barely be heard. This was pointed out to him by lawyer Augustine and he eventually agreed blaming it on the chaotic situation and noises coming from other sources.
In an earlier hearing, a member of the Federal Reserve Unit (FRU), while under cross-examination, revealed that the order to fire tear gas came from the former Deputy Chief Police Office of Perak, SAC 1 Dato’ Hadi Ho, himself. “He ordered us to fire in all directions.” The firing was not aimed at any particular targets. “We fired at will,” he said.
The defence lawyer and the DPP went head-on several times while cross examining the witnesses. Augustine objected to Julia’s line of questions, which he claimed would lead to the type of answers she had anticipated. The judge accepted Augustine’s reasoning and cautioned Julia who would continue to do the same with subsequent witnesses. The constant bickering between the two goes to show how keen the contest is with the opposing parties. It also contributed to the delay which is further compounded by “absent” and “missing” witnesses.
There are some glaring flaws in procedures and how the whole episode was handled by the Police. However, it is prejudicial to make any conclusion at this juncture, as it is sub judice.
The case has dragged on for over a year and the cost to the concerned individuals is tremendous. Most do not hold a permanent job. It is no exaggeration to say that the uncertainty is beginning to affect them emotionally.
To date 34 prosecution witnesses have been cross-examined. Latest in the witness stand is the arresting team consisting of those who apprehended the defendants on and after the commission of the crime.
The 13 are being defended by Augustine Anthony and Hj Aminuddin and their team of lawyers. DPP Julia Ibrahim heads the prosecuting team while Puan Norsalha Dato’ Hamzah presides. The accused are charged under Section 145 of the Penal Code and Section 27 of Police Act 1967 for illegal assembly.
The legal wrangling may drag on till June or July until a judgment is passed by the court.