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Malaysian lawyer detained, questioned for hours by Singapore police

Zaid Malek slams the investigation against him as an attempt to claim extra-territorial jurisdiction over Malaysians by authorities in the city-state.

Staff Writers
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Lawyer Zaid Malek (right, blue face mask) participates in a protest against the execution of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, a mentally disabled Malaysian who was hanged for a drug offence in Singapore in April, outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: AFP
Lawyer Zaid Malek (right, blue face mask) participates in a protest against the execution of Nagaenthran K Dharmalingam, a mentally disabled Malaysian who was hanged for a drug offence in Singapore in April, outside the Singapore High Commission in Kuala Lumpur. Photo: AFP

A Malaysian lawyer has accused Singapore of "dangerously claiming extra-territorial jurisdiction over Malaysian citizens" after being detained upon arrival at the city-state this week, where he was subjected to hours of interrogation by the police over a statement he had issued in Malaysia.

Zaid Malek, who is part of Malaysian rights group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL), had travelled to Singapore to assist Malaysian death row inmate Kalwant Singh in the latter's application for a stay order for his execution, which was carried out early today.

Zaid said he was subjected to "calculated intimidation and harassment" by authorities in Singapore, including two sessions with the police and a warning not to leave the country until the investigation against him was complete.

"In total, I was subjected to about four hours of detention at the airport, about three and a half hours of interrogation at the police complex.

"As a result of this police probe against me from July 4 to 6, 2022, I was obstructed and hampered in assisting and advising Kalwant Singh’s family in the crucial days before his court hearing and execution," Zaid said in a statement issued after his return to Kuala Lumpur.

He said the investigation was over a statement he had issued in Malaysia on behalf of LFL on the plight of two Malaysian prisoners in the city-state – Gobi Avedian and Datchinamurty Katiah, whose suits were dismissed.

Zaid said he was accused of contempt of court, an offence punishable by three years' imprisonment and a fine of S$100,000.

"I was interrogated for two and a half hours, during which detailed questions were asked about the organisation and other details of Lawyers for Liberty," he added.

"My detention and interrogation were acts of calculated intimidation and harassment by the Singapore authorities against me due to my work in representing Malaysian death row prisoners and speaking out against the injustices involving Malaysian prisoners in Singapore’s death penalty regime. 

"The actions of the authorities against me prevented me as a lawyer from properly discharging my duties to my clients. 

"What is also serious is that I was detained and probed over a statement issued in Malaysia, not in Singapore. By doing so, the Singapore authorities are now dangerously claiming extra-territorial jurisdiction over Malaysian citizens making statements on Malaysian soil," he said.

In an immediate response, vocal Singapore rights lawyer M Ravi slammed the action as "disgraceful".

"The Malaysian Bar should question this intimidation," he said.

Singapore authorities have been coming down hard on several lawyers in the country over their role in defending death row prisoners as well as campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty.

The island republic has been under international criticism of late over its high number of executions of drug traffickers.

Critics say those executed by the state are mostly drug mules employed by kingpins who themselves have largely escaped punishment.

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