KUALA LUMPUR: The sedition trial of lawyer P. Uthayakumar was almost derailed Wednesday after his lawyers told the Sessions Court that they were going to make a second application to recuse her. However, Uthayakumar decided to drop his intention and allowed his counsel to cross-examine the first prosecution witness, former deputy Criminal Investigation Department director Datuk Acryl Sani, after judge Sabariah Othman reminded the lawyer that his first application for recusal was still pending at the Court of Appeal.
A heated argument between Uthayakumar and Sabariah erupted after Uthayakumar accused the judge of acting on instruction to convict and sentence him to prison.
Uthayakumar launched his attacks on Sabariah after she told him that it was not necessary to record each of his objections and she was satisfied with Acryl’s answer that he could not recall the journalist who contacted him on photographs posted on the “Police Watch Malaysia” website on Nov 25, 2007.
The photographs pertained to an illegal mass rally organised by the Hindu activist group, Hindraf, in the city.
Uthayakumar repeatedly told the judge that he would write to the Chief Justice if she continued to refuse to put his objections on record.
A visibly upset Sabariah strongly objected to Uthayakumar’s allegation that she was instructed to convict and send him to prison and asked him to apologise to the court.
“I’m not satisfied with you and I want you to take back the words,” Sabariah said.
Uthayakumar’s lead counsel, N. Surendran, had a difficult time trying to defuse the situation and clarified that the accusation was not against the judge.
Sabariah decided to continue with the trial and reminded Uthayakumar not to be influenced by his emotions and make wild allegations.
“Be more careful with what you are saying next time,” stressed Sabariah.
On Dec 11, 2007, Uthayakumar, 47, pleaded not guilty in the Sessions Court to publishing a seditious letter on the “Police Watch Malaysia” website.
The charge under Section 4(1)(c) of the Sedition Act 1948 carries a fine not exceeding RM5,000 or imprisonment up to three years, or both, on conviction.
Two days later, Uthayakumar was detained under the Internal Security Act following his involvement in street demonstrations here on Nov 25 and alleged seditious remarks against the Government.
Earlier, during examination-in-chief by deputy public prosecutor Noorin Badaruddin, Acryl said that he directed deputy OCPD of Dang Wangi to investigate on the appearance of the photographs on the website. Cross-examined by counsel Surendran, Acryl agreed that Hindraf and its leaders were being very critical of the Government and also very vocal about the police.
Asked whether the action taken against Uthayakumar was to silence him from taking up issues pertaining to the Indian community, Acryl disagreed and added that the investigation was more focused on the authencity of the photographs.
To another question on the police estimate of the number of people in the illegal gathering, Acryl said he could not confirm the figures because there were conflicting numbers of 5,000, 10,000 and even 50,000. The hearing before Sabariah continues Thursday. -- Bernama