Malaysian Attorney General Tan Sri Tommy Thomas has said that all 34 charges against the 12 accused of being involved with Sri Lanka’s Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) will be dropped immediately, the Star reported.
He said that mere idol-worshipping does not constitute a crime, adding that there is “no realistic prospect of conviction for the dozen accused on any of the 34 charges”.
“Accordingly, in the exercise of my discretion pursuant to Article 145(3) of the Federal Constitution, I have decided to discontinue proceedings against them with immediate effect.
“Each of them had in his mobile phone or Facebook account photos of (Velupillai) Prabhakaran and other leaders of LTTE slain during the Civil War in Sri Lanka.
“If such conduct can constitute a criminal offence, it would bring the law into disrepute.
“But even if there were elements of a ‘terrorist act’ on the part of all or any of the 12 accused of possessing, distributing or displaying such photos of Prabhakaran, it would be impossible for the prosecution to establish that they do not fall within the excluded category of Section 130B(4) of the Penal Code in that they merely constitute ‘advocacy, protest or dissent’.
“It is commonplace to have idols to whom hero worship is displayed. It is not
just pop stars, sportsmen or actors who are admired: historical personalities and politicians are often the subject of adoration.
“Thus, millions of people across the globe admire Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung or Che Guevara, and the like.
“Having their photos and other representations in one’s mobile phone or on a Facebook account does not transform one to being a terrorist.
“Just because each of these leaders used terror or violence to achieve their political goals does not mean that an ardent supporter online should be regarded as a terrorist or is planning a terrorist act.
“That is the common theme of all the 12 LTTE accused.
“For these reasons, I have decided that there is no realistic prospect of conviction for any of the 12 accused on any of the 34 charges, ” said Thomas in a 11-page statement on Friday (Feb 21).
He explained that there must be sufficient evidence for prosecution to establish the crime “beyond reasonable doubt”.
He said that prosecutors must take account of facts that only become known as the case develops after charges are laid.
“I must be satisfied that there is sufficient evidence to provide a realistic prospect of conviction against each suspect on each charge. In reaching that judgement, I must exercise discretion responsibly and impartially.
“It is noted that six of the accused have been charged for offences that allegedly took place between March and December 2014 but prosecutors did not see it fit to charge them soon after the alleged offences had been committed.
“It is against the public interest that these six persons are tried in 2020 for offences allegedly committed six years previously. The passage of time is unacceptable for a case of this nature.
“The charges relating to the other six accused concern offences allegedly occurring in January and October 2019 but by this time, even if LTTE was still gazetted under our laws as a terrorist group, the defence will contend that the LTTE has not been responsible for violence even in its home country, Sri Lanka in 2019, let alone having any impact on the ordinary affairs of ordinary people in Malaysia.
“The link is remote, specious and tenuous. Harm to Malaysians cannot be established by the prosecution, ” said Thomas.
The 12 were detained by the Counter Terrorism Division (E8) on Oct 10 and 12,2019 in various parts of the country.
Among them were two DAP politicians – Melaka executive councillor G. Saminathan, who is the Gadek assemblyman, and Seremban Jaya assemblyman P. Gunasekaran.
Sri Lanka was embroiled in a 26-year civil war between the LTTE and the military, which saw around 80,000 to 100,000 people killed.
The civil war ended when the military defeated the LTTE in May 2009.
However, over the years, there have been several arrests by authorities against individuals said to be supporting the LTTE, which was labelled a terrorist organisation in Malaysia under the Anti-Money Laundering, Anti-Terrorism Financing and Proceeds of Unlawful Activities Act in February 2014.
Sri Lanka, the United States, Canada, India and the European Union have also labelled the LTTE a terrorist group. (Colombo Gazette)