Monday, December 10, 2007

Attempted murder: Prosecutors cast net too wide

Richard Teo | Dec 10, 07 4:42pm

Malaysians, particularly Indians, must be appalled at the attorney-general’s charge against 31 Hindraf protestors for the dubious crime of attempted murder.

Surely the charge can only be valid if the perpetrator of the crime can be identified. If the crime was committed by a single individual, there is no justification to detain the 31 members. The prosecutor cannot expect the court to believe that the 31 perpetrators were responsible for throwing an object which specifically caused injury to the police officers. How could the prosecutors cast a net so wide and hope per chance that it may catch the culprit amongst the 31 protestors?

Obviously not all 31 of them were responsible for the injury caused to the officer. If the law punishes the 31 Hindraf members simply because one of them caused injury to an officer, will justice be served? Is our justice system be so vicious that 31 individuals must pay the price for a crime committed by one person? In essence, that is what the attorney-general is doing and in doing so, he has made a mockery of our judicial system.

In reality, what was the crime committed by the 31 protestors?

There were several protestors who suffered head injuries when the police fired tear gas canisters laterally at the crowd. Video clips filmed on that day confirmed that. By the same logic, the police officers who fired the tear gas canisters can also be charged with attempted murder. The video clips also showed some protestors flinging the canisters back at the police in retaliation thus causing injury to the police officer.

If such a scenario did occur, how could any one be charged with attempted murder? Throwing the canisters back in retaliation was merely a natural response to the police’s actions. Is it acceptable for the police to fire indiscriminately at the crowd, possibly causing them injury whilst it is against the law for victims to retaliate in a similar fashion?

Perhaps what is even more shocking is the judge’s refusal to grant bail for the 31 protestors. The 31 Hindraf members, whose guilt has not even been established, will now have to start serving time before the actual trial commences. Anyone familiar with our legal system will tell you that it will be years before they see justice in the court. The charges against the 31 protestors by the attorney-general is not only a travesty of justice but serves to confirm the lingering suspicions that the Attorney-General’s Chambers and the judiciary are beholden to the executive.

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