Rights lawyer: KL lockdown illegal

Andrew Ong
Nov 14, 07    

Police acted illegally when they locked down Kuala Lumpur ahead of the massive Bersih rally last Saturday, claimed human rights lawyer N Surendren.

He cited reports that police had turned away certain vehicles from the city centre prior to the rally, and described this as a violation of the Federal Constitution which guarantees freedom of movement.
“The police can only restrict the movement of citizens if we are under Emergency rule. The question I would like to pose to the police is: Are we under martial law?” he said.
Surendren said the police must invoke specific laws in order to claim specific powers to curb the movement of people.
“Those motorists had yet to commit any offence. So what business did the police have in turning them away from the city?” he asked.
On media reports that the police had also seized rally-related paraphernalia such as yellow t-shirts, bandanas and posters from those screened at road-blocks, he said the police were not allowed to do so because these were not hazardous items like weapons or drugs.
Surendren said the police have yet to show reasonable cause in erecting so many check-points around the city, which created traffic snarls.
“Not a single weapon was found during the road blocks. There was no reasonable cause,” he added.
Preventive detention
According to a New Straits Times report on Monday, Kuala Lumpur CID chief Ku Chin Wah said 192 individuals had been detained while trying to enter the city on Friday.
The report adds that seven buses from the East Coast were stopped after the police found yellow t-shirts and bandanas in the vehicles.
Contacted for clarification yesterday, Ku said the police took action against the 192 under Section 105 of the Criminal Procedure Code which allows arrests to prevent ‘seizable offences’.
The law states that a police officer may arrest, without a warrant, any individual who the officer thinks could commit a crime.
The 192 individuals were among the 245 detained before and during the rally.
Yesterday, Inspector-General of Police Musa Hassan had defended the police move to screen vehicles entering the city on Saturday.
“We needed to filter any undesirable elements and check for weapons and arms… We had no choice as public safety was paramount,” he was quoted as saying by the New Straits Times.
He also said all those detained had been released but may be charged for participating in an illegal assembly.