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Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen is not convinced that the Prevention of Terrorism Act is needed. — TRP file pic
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KUALA LUMPUR, March 7, 2015:
Although the full details of the Prevention of Terrorism Act (Pota) have not been fully disclosed, Lawyers for Liberty executive director Eric Paulsen is not convinced the new law is needed.
Maintaining that it would be similar to the repealed Internal Security Act (ISA), Paulsen said the only difference was that the power to detain would now lie in the hands of an advisory board.
Even this, he added, was only a “short-sighted measure”.
“Now it is up to a board, but how the board decides, we don’t know. Although we understand the difficulty and seriousness of terrorism in Malaysia and need to tackle it, we should not take such a short-sighted measure.
“If any person is suspected of being involved in terrorism activities, the proper route is to arrest them, collect evidence and charge them in the court of law for very clear offences either under Penal Code or any other laws,” he added.
Condemning the element of detention without trial under Pota, Paulsen also opined that there would be no way for a detainee to be allowed to declare habeas corpus.
Habeas corpus is used to bring a detainee before the court to determine if a person’s imprisonment or detention was lawful.
In this respect, Home Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi had stated that Pota suspects could seek redress in the courts to ensure their rights were preserved on humanitarian ground.
While the redress was similar to habeas corpus, Paulsen argued Zahid was misleading.
“With detention without trial, detainees are presumed guilty.
“Habeas corpus is only a minor remedy as the court can only look at procedural defects. It is difficult, almost impossible, to be successful. It is not a substitute for a proper trial where the burden is on the state to prove guilt.
“With evidence, a fair trial stands,” he explained.
Paulsen said the other aspect in which Zahid was misleading was in comparing Pota to anti-terror legislation in other countries, like the United Kingdom and United States.
“It’s erroneous for the government to try compare anti-terror legislation in other countries when in all these countries they don’t provide detention without trial.”
The better way to curb the terror threat, Paulsen said, was by authorities addressing the root causes of why people would be driven to get involved in such activities.
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