PUTRAJAYA: Bersih 2.0 chairman Maria Chin Abdullah again failed in the Federal Court to determine the legality of her detention under the Security Offences and Special Measures Act (Sosma) last year.
A five-man bench led by newly-appointed Chief Judge of Malaya Ahmad Maarop said there was no merit in Maria’s appeal.
“The appeal is dismissed. We will deliver our written grounds later,” he said of the unanimous decision.
On Nov 29, the High Court struck out Maria’s habeas corpus application on grounds she had been freed from police detention.
“The court has no jurisdiction to decide on merits and to award damages,” judge Nordin Hassan had said.
He said the legal adviser to the home ministry had sent a letter, informing of Maria’s release and that they were not filing an affidavit–in–reply, to the application.
Bersih 5 rally
In her court papers filed on Nov 22, Maria, 60, had named Supt Tham Lai Kuan of the Bukit Aman Criminal Investigation Department and the government as respondents.
Maria was detained at her office on Nov 18, a day before the Bersih 5 rally.
Her lawyers filed the application to free her on Nov 22 and the government was given time to file an affidavit as to the grounds for detention.
However, she was released about 4.30pm on Nov 28, a day before her application was scheduled to be heard.
Outside the court, her lawyer Gurdial Singh Nijar said today’s ruling appears to indicate that police could arrest a person under Sosma but could release them before the court made an inquiry on the grounds for detention.
“We were hoping for the Federal Court to make a ruling on the legality of Maria’s detention although she was freed,” he said.
Gurdial said he would await the written judgment of the Federal Court to see the scope under which police could detain a person under Sosma.
He said in the High Court the police were directed to file an affidavit-in-reply as to why Maria was held but they did not comply.
“The High Court condoned it,” he said.
Ambiga Sreenevasan, who appeared with Gurdial, said there must be accountability by police for arresting anyone under Sosma.
“Now, the Dewan Rakyat has approved the use of Sosma for another five years and use of the legislation is rather vague,” she said, adding that it was used against civil society members like Maria.
Maria said the legislation was intended to be used to check terrorism but was abused to instil fear against government critics.
Under the law, a suspect could be held for a total of 28 days before one is freed or charged.