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Police probe under Peaceful Assembly Act unlawful, say lawyers

Lawyers for Liberty says the section in question was struck down by the court in 2014 in a decision that still stands today.

Staff Writers
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Demonstrators move from Kampung Baru to the Dang Wangi police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to lodge a report on Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi during the 'Save Malaysia' assembly, Sept 16.
Demonstrators move from Kampung Baru to the Dang Wangi police headquarters in Kuala Lumpur to lodge a report on Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi during the 'Save Malaysia' assembly, Sept 16.

Lawyers group Lawyers for Liberty (LFL) today hit out at the police investigation into a number of individuals over the "Save Malaysia" rally last weekend, saying there is no legal basis for the probe under the Peaceful Assembly Act (PAA). 

LFL director Zaid Malek said the investigation into the alleged failure to give proper notice under the PAA was without any basis in law as the Court of Appeal had in 2014 struck down the related provision.

"Such an investigation would be for an offence under Section 9(5) of the PAA, which states that failure to give notice would make one liable to a fine not exceeding RM10,000," he said.

"However, the Court of Appeal struck down Section 9(5) of the PAA for being unconstitutional in the case of Nik Nazmi Nik Ahmad v public prosecutor in 2014.

"The decision of the Court of Appeal in this case still stands and has not been overturned by a higher court."

Deputy Inspector-General of Police Ayob Khan Mydin Pitchay yesterday said that 25 individuals involved in the Sept 16 demonstration had been identified and would be called in for questioning over the next few days.

He also said that the gathering had not complied with the PAA, citing the failure to give prior notice to the police, its venue at a prohibited place such as a mosque, and the presence of children.

Kuala Lumpur police chief Allaudeen Abdul Majid meanwhile said that the gathering failed to adhere to the Fourth Schedule requirements under Section 10 of the PAA. 

The demonstration was organised by Perikatan Nasional to protest the attorney-general's controversial decision to halt the corruption trial of Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi.

Zahid, the Umno president and Barisan Nasional chairman, had faced 12 counts of criminal breach of trust, eight of corruption, and 27 of money laundering involving tens of millions of ringgit belonging to Yayasan Akalbudi.

He was given a discharge not amounting to an acquittal or DNAA on Sept 4 after deputy public prosecutor Mohd Dusuki Mokhtar informed the judge of the request by the Attorney-General's Chambers to discontinue all proceedings against him.

LFL had earlier said that no application was required under the PAA, which only states that the police must be notified of the assembly.

Electoral watchdog Bersih also previously said that the PAA only required rally organisers to notify the authorities and "not apply for permits or approval like in the old days".

In his statement today, Zaid said the police declaration of the gathering as unlawful for failure to provide adequate notice was beyond the ambit of the PAA as well as in breach of the constitution which guarantees the right to peaceful assembly.

"The government must not allow the police to run rampant by instituting unlawful investigations. We do not live in a police state; they cannot enforce what is not law," he said. 

He also slammed the government's silence in the matter, calling it the "endorsement of extra-legal acts by the police".

"As such, the police must immediately halt any and all illegal investigations under Section 9(5) of the PAA. Further, all pending investigations or prosecutions under the PAA since 2014 must also be suspended, and the matter referred for disposal to the attorney-general," he said. 

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