PETALING JAYA: The Attorney General has the right to drop charges against Indonesian Siti Aisyah, said outgoing Malaysian Bar president George Varughese amid concerns of double standards towards her co-accused, Vietnamese Doan Thi Huong.
He said AG Tommy Thomas (pic) had his reasons for continuing to prosecute Doan, 30, for the murder of North Korean Kim Chol or Kim Jong-nam.
“However, to avoid speculation, it would be good if the AG could give his reasons for dropping the charges and I believe he would,” said Varughese, whose two-year term as the Malaysian Bar president ends today.
Siti Aisyah, 27, and Doan were charged with four others still at large over the murder of the half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un at the KLIA2 departure hall at 9am on Feb 13, 2017.
On Monday, the Shah Alam High Court granted a discharge not amounting to an acquittal to Siti Aisyah after the prosecution informed the court that it had been instructed to withdraw the charge.
Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Datuk Liew Vui Keong on Wednesday said Thomas had the “sole discretion” to withdraw the murder charge against Siti Aisyah.
Liew said under the Federal Constitution, the AG, who is also the public prosecutor, had the discretion to proceed or discontinue with any criminal case.
He said the AG could exercise this power even during trial and that the government could not interfere with the AG’s authority.
MCA president Datuk Seri Dr Wee Ka Siong, however, expressed concern over possible meddling of the executive that could undermine the independence of AG’s chambers.
Dr Wee said he had obtained a reply to his written question in Parliament stating that the AG could follow the Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad’s directive.
“Can the Prime Minister meddle with the decision of the AG’s Chambers?
“Is there still judicial independence?” he said in his Facebook post.
Dr Wee had asked whether the Prime Minister could order the AG to ensure criminal cases filed against certain individuals were carried out as scheduled without any delay following leaked circular from the Solicitor General II informing his officers via e-mail of the Cabinet directive issued on Dec 19 last year.
“What are the cases that should be expedited? And what are the cases that should be slowed down? Cases that involve Indonesians should be expedited while cases that involve Vietnamese should be slowed down?
“Who makes the decision? The AG? The law? Or someone else?” he asked.
Dr Wee said in the first four paragraphs of the written reply, the Prime Minister explained the responsibilities of the AG and clearly stated that the latter had the discretion to decide on the timeline for criminal prosecution procedures.
But in the subsequent paragraph, the Prime Minister changed his tune claiming the AG could follow his directive.
“How could the AG follow the directives of the Prime Minister?” Dr Wee asked.
MCA spokesman Chan Quin Er said everyone was equal before the law and that the law should not discriminate.
Chan said the case of Siti Aisyah and Doan were identical and that Vietnam’s Foreign Minister had even contacted the Foreign Ministry to release Doan, similar to how the Indonesian Minister of Law and Human Rights wrote to Thomas to secure Siti Aisyah’s release.
“Were racial and religious similarities and preferences in our populations the reason for the charges against Siti Aisyah to be dropped but not for Doan?” asked Chan.
Bukit Gelugor MP Ramkarpal Singh said charges against Doan ought to have been dropped the same way it was dropped against Siti Aisyah if the AG was of the view that North Korea had a hand in Jong-nam’s murder.
“Subjecting Doan to further prosecution and not her co-accused, particularly when a prima facie case has been found against both, is, with respect, unprecedented and regrettable,” said Ramkarpal on Thursday.
Ramkarpal, who is also a lawyer, said the refusal of the AG to withdraw the murder charge against Doan was “mind-boggling and raises questions about the powers of the AG”.