Singapore police issue Malaysian lawyer a conditional warning for contempt over statements on drug traffickers

Malaysian lawyer Zaid Abd Malek had been served a 24-month conditional warning for contempt of court, said Singapore police.

SINGAPORE, July 9 (The Straits Times/ANN): The Singapore Police Force (SPF) said on Saturday (July 9) that Malaysian lawyer Zaid Abd Malek had been served a 24-month conditional warning for contempt of court over his statements about Malaysian drug traffickers in an article.

The article, which appeared in the Malay Mail on February 14, 2020, had referred to statements made by Zaid about the dismissal of lawsuits by the Singapore High Court filed by two convicted Malaysian drug traffickers, Gobi Avedian and Datchinamurthy Kataiah, over the alleged execution methods practised by prison authorities.

Gobi Avedian was sentenced to 15 years' jail and 10 strokes of the cane in October 2020, while Datchinamurthy Kataiah's execution is being stayed because of a pending civil claim.

Zaid, who made the comments in his capacity as the director of non-governmental organisation, Lawyers for Liberty, had also suggested that the Singapore courts had been unfair and ignored due process by rushing the hearing, and that the courts were "bent on dismissing the suits and proceeding to execution".

"These statements were published online and accessed by members of the public in Singapore," the SPF said in a statement.

The police's response came two days after Zaid wrote in a Facebook post about how he had been detained and interrogated by the police when he arrived in Singapore on July 4 (Monday).

Zaid said he made the trip to assist and provide legal advice to the family of Malaysian Kalwant Singh, who was executed at Changi Prison on Thursday (July 7) after being convicted of drug trafficking.

Zaid said when he arrived at Seletar Airport, he was asked to wait by an immigration officer. He wrote that he was not allowed to leave and was made to wait for four hours without any explanation.

He was later taken to a room and served a notice ordering him to be present at the Police Cantonment Complex on Wednesday (July 6) to be investigated for a possible contempt of court offence, and was warned not to leave the country.

At the police HQ at Cantonment on Wednesday, Zaid said he was interrogated for two and a half hours and was told to return later that night.

That night, he said he was told that he had committed the offence of contempt of court, and given two conditional warnings - one directed to him and the other directed to Lawyers for Liberty.

In his Facebook post, Zaid said his detention and interrogation were "acts of calculated intimidation and harassment by the Singapore authorities" because of his work and his speaking out "against the injustices involving Malaysian prisoners in Singapore's death penalty regime".

He also said the police probe had obstructed and hampered him in assisting Kalwant Singh's family and that he had told the police about his purpose in Singapore.

In its statement on Saturday, the SPF said Zaid was not in Singapore when an order was issued by the Attorney-General's Chambers on March 17, 2020, authorising the police to investigate him for alleged contempt of court.

When he arrived in Singapore on Monday, two officers went to the airport to serve an order requiring his attendance for investigations.

Zaid told the officers he was available for an interview on July 6 and was allowed to leave the airport.

The police said before the interview started on July 6, Zaid was informed that he could request for breaks at any point during the interview.

The police added: "Statement recording began at about 10.17am and ended at about 12.05pm, and Mr Zaid did not request for any break throughout the interview."

Zaid left the Police Cantonment Complex shortly after the statement recording ended.

The same day, the police served a 24-month conditional warning to Mr Zaid and Lawyers for Liberty in lieu of prosecution for contempt of court.

Zaid arrived at Cantonment Complex that night at about 8:50pm and received the warnings, and left the building at about 9:20pm, before his scheduled departure from Singapore the next day.

The police said: "Under Section 11 of the Administration of Justice (Protection) Act 2016, the publication in relation to contempt of court, if published through the Internet or other electronic media, is taken to be published in Singapore if it was accessed by members of the public in Singapore." - The Straits Times/ANN

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