Give them a fair trial here — Azmi Sharom

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Source: The Star Online

Dr. Azmi Sharom is a law teacher in Universiti Malaya.

BY AZMI SHAROM

THE arrest of Turkish nationals Turgay Karaman and Ihsan Aslan gives rise to some serious concerns.

According to the Inspector-General of Police, they were arrested under Section 130 of the Penal Code. Section 130 is about the crime of participating in terrorist activities.

Ah, terrorism, that one wonderful word which can be used to hide a multitude of sins.

If these men are involved in terrorism (according to the police they are linked to Islamic State), then by all means let them be tried in open court here in Malaysia.

However, they do seem to be rather unlikely terrorists. Although, never having met a terrorist before, I am not an expert on the matter.

Having said that, they don’t appear to fit the bill. Karaman is the headmaster of a reportedly progressive school. He was the secretary-general of the Malaysian-Turkish Dialogue Society.

In fact, he had met and was photographed with the Prime Minister when they had a meeting just prior to the latter’s official trip to Turkey in 2011. Gosh, I hope he wasn’t a terrorist then. How could the Special Branch be so careless?

This is a man whose Facebook page indicates a love of Turkish cuisine and an admiration of Sufism (not exactly your usual IS profile).

But, I can hear worried Malaysians say, what if he really is an IS supporter? Well, like I mentioned above, put him on trial then. Here in Malaysia. It is very easy to simply accuse people of terrorism when you don’t have to prove it.

But, my concern about Karaman and Aslan goes deeper than just a worry that they may be detained without trial here in Malaysia. My real concern is that they may be deported to Turkey.

There is a great apprehension that the Turkish government is using friendly foreign governments to send back dissidents where they will then be detained without trial and, many fear, will be subjected to torture.

Is this a real concern? Absolutely.

Since the failed coup in Turkey last July, there have been over 41,000 arrests. Among the arrested are judges, law makers and academics. Purportedly for offences against the state, but critics believe that it is really about the President of Turkey consolidating his hold on power.

People have been fired, including 4,000 members of the judiciary and prosecution services, without any procedural propriety, and those arrested are subject to appalling conditions.

Many countries have refused to extradite Turks, despite Ankara’s demands, because they feel, rightly so, that fair treatment does not await them.

But not Malaysia. According to British press reports, the Turkish Foreign Minister has said that three Turks have already been returned to Turkey from Malaysia following a request. If this is accurate, then the fate of Karaman and Aslan does not look good.

Are their arrests really about links to IS or is it because the Turkish government believes them to be dissidents and wants to punish them?

The IGP said there have been no demands from the Turkish government. Very well then, if that is the case, I repeat, allow these men to be tried in open court and give them the opportunity to clear their names.

They should not, under any circumstances, be deported to Turkey. Besides, Malaysia has shown in the past that it is willing to protect those accused of terrorism. It has drawn Zakir Naik to its bosom, even though he is wanted in his native India.

If our Government can be distrustful about the Indian legal system, which has one of the most progressive and independent judiciaries in the world, then how can it justify sending people back to a country where the judiciary has been decimated by a leader whose clamp down on supposed enemies of the state is on such a scale that it can only be described as a pogrom?

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