PETALING JAYA: There was no need to arrest former journalist Sidek Kamiso for his tweet and seek a four-day remand order, said Malaysian Bar Council vice-president George Varughese (pix).
On Sept 19, Sidek was arrested under Section 233 of the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998, which criminalises online content deemed offensive for his comments over the death of PAS spiritual adviser Datuk Dr Haron Din.
The second arrest took place on Sept 29 when Sidek was asked to go to Dang Wangi police station to record a statement for an alleged offence under Section 298A of the Penal Code, which punishes those who cause religious disharmony.
"The police could have called Sidek Kamiso in for questioning, as was done on Sept 29, 2016. Moreover, since the alleged offences arise from the same tweet, the police ought to have had sufficient information after the first arrest to determine the veracity of any subsequent complaint.
“The second arrest appears to have been unnecessary. Although the two arrests were for two different offences, both arrests were premised on the same tweet,” said Varughese in a statement on Monday.
Police had allegedly trespassed into the compound of his house in the wee hours of the night to arrest him, traumatising his wife and children.
They had also allegedly searched his house without a warrant while denying him his right to contact his family and lawyer after his arrest.
This was then followed by a second arrest at the Dang Wangi police station where he had been called in by police to give a statement. He was subsequently released on police bail after questioning.
Speaking about the two arrests, Varughese said that it is troubling that the police continue to grossly misconstrue their investigative powers under the country's laws, such as the Criminal Procedure Code.
"Powers to arrest are not meant to be used to begin gathering evidence against an individual.
"Further, investigative powers cannot be used to arrest or detain individuals, or to seek remand orders, only for the purpose of gathering evidence," he said.
Varughese added that the police should have conducted thorough investigations, and not re-arrested Sidek on the grounds that different offences might have been committed arising from the same facts upon the lodgement of another police report.
"The powers of investigation and arrest must not be used to intimidate suspects," said Varughese.
He added that those who make decisions in the police force need to be aware that the public is always watching their conduct.